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Men's basketball roars past Sacred Heart 76-72

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VESTAL, N.Y. - In an emotional home opener that began with a memorial tribute to their teammate, Binghamton men's basketball (1-3) rallied from a 15-point deficit to post its first victory of the season, 76-72 over visiting Sacred Heart (0-3) Saturday afternoon at Dr. Bai Lee Court at the Events Center.

Sophomore guard Sam Sessoms poured in 27 points (20 in second half) and earned his first collegiate double-double with a career-high 12 rebounds. Freshman forward George Tinsley produced his second straight double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds as BU put 43 second-half points on the board to fend off the Pioneers.

After the pre-game tribute to Calistus Anyichie, who tragically passed away in July, BU dug itself a 15-0 hole in the game's first 4:21. After the Bearcats missed their first five shots, Tinsley hit a 3-pointer to get BU on the board. Then over the next 8+ minutes, the Bearcats outscored Sacred Heart 27-12 to forge a 27-27 tie with 6:59 left. The Pioneers regained control and led by four before Tinsley gave BU a spark heading into the locker room with a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer. That bucket drew the Bearcats to within one, 34-33, at intermission.

In the second half, Sessoms took over. The reigning America East Rookie of the Year hit 8-of-16 shots and was relentless on the glass, collecting eight boards. Still Sacred Heart led 44-39 early in the period before Sessoms (7 pts.) and Tinsley (6 pts.) teamed for a 13-4 run that gave BU a 52-48 lead with 13:05 left. After the Pioneers trimmed it to one, BU countered with an 8-0 run that was punctuated with a Sessoms 3-pointer with 10:08 remaining. 

Up 67-65 with under three minutes remaining, Tinsley had a big offensive rebound and putback that gave BU a 69-65 edge with 2:41 left. Then senior forward Pierre Sarr delivered a key bucket with 0:33 left and the Bearcats up three. Up five, 71-66, with a half-minute left, BU sealed the win with 5-of-6 accuracy from the free throw line.

After being minus 16 on the glass in the first half, BU was plus five in the decisive second half with Tinsley and Sessoms grabbing eight boards apiece.

"I'm proud of our guys," head coach Tommy Dempsey said. "The emotions were flowing and we felt it was important to win today ... for what today meant to us. Down 15-0, our guys didn't flinch ... we stayed together and started making some shots. We got some energy in the building and from that point on, it was a pretty good performance for our team. I'm proud of way we handled the tribute to Calistus and then came out and fought like we did."

Binghamton next travels to Newark for a Wednesday night tilt at NJIT. 

Courtesy: Binghamton University Athletics