VESTAL, N.Y. -After Binghamton grabbed the game's final rebound, UMBC guard Jay Greene slowly turned and started walking off the court. His teammates soon fell in line, and by the time the final buzzer sounded 12 seconds later, the Retrievers were gone. Their time as champions was done.
Sixth seed UMBC tried to pull a surprise in yesterday's America East championship game against top seed Binghamton, but mistakes foiled the Retrievers' attempt at a second straight title. Binghamton took advantage of those miscues and held off a UMBC rally for a 61-51 victory before an announced sellout crowd of 5,342 at the Events Center.
UMBC won last season's conference title to earn the school's first NCAA tournament bid. This will be Binghamton's first trip.
The host Bearcats rattled the Retrievers (15-17) with full-court pressure defense early. UMBC had 11 total turnovers in its first two tournament games but had 12 in the first half alone and 17 overall yesterday, leading to 19 Binghamton points.
"It was very uncharacteristic of us to turn the ball over [that much]," UMBC coach Randy Monroe said. "We were trying to do too much, and we just needed to settle down. We were trying to catch the ball and make a move all at one time."
Rich Flemming (14 points, 11 rebounds) went 7-for-9 from the field and gave the Retrievers a spark off the bench. Darryl Proctor (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Greene (seven points, four assists) made big plays throughout. But UMBC also hurt its cause by making only five of 12 free throws and shooting just 37.9 percent from the field - making only 10 of 32 attempts in the second half. The Retrievers didn't score in the final 4:49.
"It's more self-inflicted on what we did to ourselves," Greene said. "The beginning of the game, you get [some jitters]. But once we settled down and ran our offense through, we were able to get good looks."
Despite the troubles, the Retrievers hung in. Binghamton (23-8) scored 12 straight points to take a 41-27 lead early in the second half. But UMBC tightened defensively and cut the lead to 57-51 on two free throws by Chauncey Gilliam (Hammond) with 4:49 left.
The Retrievers never scored again, missing their final eight shots from the field. A key moment came when Proctor hit a driving layup and appeared to have a chance for a three-point play that would have cut the lead to three with three minutes left, but the officials called him for charging.
"I thought we had numerous chances, but it just wasn't meant to be," Monroe said.
Binghamton left the door open with its late struggles. The Bearcats didn't make a basket in the final 8:16, missing their final five shots from the field. The score stayed at 57-51 until Binghamton's Reggie Fuller and Malik Alvin each made two free throws in the last 55 seconds to seal the Bearcats' 11th straight win.
UMBC had no answer for Fuller (19 points, 10 rebounds). The 6-foot-6 forward made all seven of his shots from the field and went 13-for-13 in the tournament. D.J. Rivera added 16 points and was picked as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus praised the way the Retrievers battled until it was over.
"The only way you can take over a championship is to beat the champions," Broadus said. "They never, ever gave up. They were true champions."