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Bearcats rally in second for conference upset over Vermont

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VESTAL, N.Y. - Freshman forward Willie Rodriguez scored a game-high 18 points and Binghamton men's basketball (5-24, 4-10 America East) rallied from 10 points down in the second half to upend visiting Vermont (16-11, 11-3 AE) 57-55 Wednesday night at the Events Center.

The Bearcats committed a season-low four turnovers on offense and on the defensive end, held the second-place Catamounts 13 points under their scoring average.

Rodriguez (8-for-14 FG) led three players in double figures and also produced three blocks in 39 hard minutes. Classmate Bobby Ahearn notched 12 points and seven rebounds and freshman guard Romello Walker tallied 10 points. Sophomore guard Marlon Beck II added nine points and two steals.

"It was an important game because we were able to finish strong," head coach Tommy Dempsey said. "We got the stops we needed and we were relentless on offense. They are a bigger team but I thought tonight we were more physical and that was the key. If they come in and push us around ... we can't win. But we stood in the center of the ring and battled for 40 minutes against a good team. I liked the way we spread the ball on offense and took advantage of the matchups we liked. And we took care of the ball."

Down 48-43 with under five minutes to play, BU rallied with an 11-2 run that featured a big three-pointer from Beck and six free throws. Binghamton then drew two charges in the final 47 seconds and made just enough free throws (7-of-14 in final 1:48) to hang on. After two BU misses at the line with 3.2 seconds left, Vermont's final shot - a halfcourt heave at the buzzer - banked off the backboard.

Back after missing the previous three games with an illness, freshman wing Justin McFadden put his stamp on the game with 35 minutes of work. He drew a charge with 1:34 left and then was part of a four-man BU scramble for possession after Vermont lost control of the ball with . The ensuing tie-up gave the Bearcats the ball on the possession arrow and led to a technical foul on the Catamount bench. Beck made two free throws with 0:30 left to push BU's lead to 56-52. He then added one more free throw with 0:10 left before Vermont hit a three-pointer with 0:04 left to keep the outcome in doubt.

The Catamounts led 27-23 at intermission after the teams traded leads six times in the first half.

Binghamton next plays at Stony Brook Saturday night in an ESPN3 game. Tip is set for 7 p.m. on Long Island.

NOTES
Rodriguez hit double figures for the 16th time this season ... Vermont entered the game 12th in the nation in field goal percentage defense (37.7%) but BU shot 44 percent ... The win snapped a five-game losing streak to Vermont in the all-time series ... The win, combined with Maine's loss at Lowell, moved the Bearcats two games up on Maine (in win column) for the No. 6 playoff seed with two regular season games remaining.

(Courtesy: BU Athletics)