CANCUN, Mexico - Binghamton men's basketball had a strong start against Big Sky foe Montana State (3-2) but the Bobcats shot 59 percent in the second half to pull away for a 74-64 win over the Bearcats (1-4) in the opening game of the Cancun Challenge Tuesday afternoon at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Binghamton led 31-28 at the break but MSU used a 16-6 run that spanned 5:18 early in the second half to take the lead for good. Down 62-46 with 7:06 left, BU staged a rally, using a 16-6 run of its own to pull within six, 68-62, with 1:49 left. But the Bearcats could draw no closer and were bumped into the third-place game of the tournament. Binghamton will face Big West member Cal State Northridge at 12:30 p.m. (EST).
Senior forward Willie Rodriguez canned a pair of threes during the late run and wound up with 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting. Sophomore guard Fard Muhammad led BU with 15 points on 5-of-9 threes. Junior center Thomas Bruce added seven rebounds, five points and five blocks - four of which came in the first half. Bruce entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in total blocks and now has 19 (3.8/game).
Montana State countered BU's 52 percent second-half accuracy with 59 percent shooting and the Bobcats made 14-of-15 free throws to supplement their offense.