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Bearcats hang tough, but fall to Hartford

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Playing without two starters, Binghamton shot 55 percent and pushed Hartford (8-7, 1-1 America East) to the closing minutes in a 69-59 loss Wednesday night at Chase Family Arena. The Bearcats (1-16, 0-2 AE) shot a season-high 64 percent in the second half.

Freshman guard Romello Walker (8-of-12 FG) produced a season-high 17 points – 15 in the second half - to lead three Bearcats in double figures. Sophomore guard Marlon Beck II (6-of-10 FG) scored a season-high 16 points and freshman forward Willie Rodriguez added 10 points - the seventh time this season he has reached double digits.

"We competed well tonight," head coach Tommy Dempsey said. "Our guys are ready to play and we're getting off to great starts and for a young group, we're really locked in. All that is very positive. To come on the road against a good team and be up for the challenge is encouraging. We have to continue to battle and improve. Hopefully we can get on our home court Saturday and keep pushing for a win."

Walker heated up in the second half, scoring 11 points in the first 7:37 of play to keep BU near even. He showed off an array of pull-up jumpers and drives to the rim and his jumper with 12:24 left gave BU a 39-38 lead. The Bearcats hit 7-of-10 to start the period before Hartford hit back-to-back threes to forge a lead the hosts wouldn't relinquish. The Hawks embarked on a 19-6 run that spanned 6:47 and gave them a 57-45 cushion with 5:47 left. Binghamton got no closer than nine the rest of the way.

Binghamton hit just 8-of-18 from the line, missing a chance to tighten the final result.

Hartford was led by senior forward Mark Nwakamma, who registered a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Bearcats jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead with high energy on both ends of the floor. Binghamton had five different players score and forced the Hawks into a 1-for-8 start with six turnovers. Hartford steadied itself with a few threes and then used a three-point play to take a 21-20 lead with 2:57 left. Binghamton led 24-21 with 2:01 left before the hosts scored the final seven points of the half (part of a 13-4 run) to take a 28-24 edge into intermission. Sophomore guard Marlon Beck hit 4-of-6 shots for nine points in the opening stanza.

Binghamton, already the youngest team in the nation (StatSheet.com), played its first game without leading scorer and starting center Dusan Perovic (11.5 ppg.), who is lost for the season with a knee injury. Dempsey's squad was already playing without starting sophomore forward Nick Madray (7.8 ppg.), who is recovering from an ankle injury.

Binghamton returns home to host Maine at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday in the second half of a doubleheader with the women's team.

(Courtesy: BU Athletics)