VESTAL, N.Y. – Led by Ilker Er’s 23 points, the Maine Black Bears outscored Binghamton by 10 in the second half to win 76-73 at the Events Center on Saturday afternoon. Maine overcame a nine-point deficit in the final 11-and-a-half minutes, finishing the game on a 28-19 run to snap a five-game losing skid.
With the victory, Maine improves to 4-13 and are now an even 1-1 in the America East, while Binghamton drops to 9-7, and are 0-1 in conference play.
“Despite our struggles on offense, our guys continue to fight for each other,” said head coach Bob Walsh after the game. “I’m really proud of the belief we showed, especially after another difficult result on Wednesday. We just refuse to give in”
Er shot an efficient 10-for-14 from the floor, with 2-of-5 going in from long distance. The last time a Black Bear scored 10-plus field goals in game came against UMBC last season on Feb. 4, 2017. The native of Istanbul, Turkey registered 20-plus points for the third time in his career, and the second time this season.
“Ilker stepped up an made big plays for us all day,” continued Walsh. “Down the stretch we were mentally tough, and that allowed guys like Ilker and Aaron (Calixte) to make some huge buckets.”
For the third consecutive game, Aaron Calixte (18 points, 4-6 FG, 2-4 3-PT) dropped in 13-plus points in the second half, finishing with 18 points overall. The redshirt-junior excelled from the charity stripe, sinking 8-of-9 free throw attempts. Maine’s leading scorer has now made 45 of his last 47 free throw attempts, spanning the past 11 games.
Isaiah White reached double-figures in scoring for the second consecutive game, connecting on five of his 11 shots from the field, for 13 points. Ilija Stojiljkovic led the Black Bears off the glass bringing down a career-high 12 rebounds.
The game started out as a defensive battle, with the score tied at 10-10 with just over nine minutes left in the first half. The Bearcats ensued on an 11-4 sprint, taking a 21-14 advantage.
Maine fought back to within four at 23-19 after two free throws from Calixte and a Dusan Majstorovic 3-pointer, but Binghamton jumped to a 32-23 advantage following a 9-4 run with two minutes left in the first half. The Bearcats held a 34-27 lead heading into the halftime intermission.
The Black Bears cut the halftime deficit to four at 36-32, but Binghamton built back a 10-point advantage at 47-37 with 16:57 remaining. The Bearcats kept their lead for the time being, but Maine clawed back to just a 5-point deficit with the score at 61-56 with 7:24 remaining.
Er then put the team on his back, as the senior went on an 8-0 run by himself, featuring points on a layup and free throw on a 3-point play, a jumper, and a 3-pointer to give Maine a 64-61 lead.
Binghamton came within two points at 69-67 and 71-69, and within one at 74-73 with three seconds left, but Calixte made both of his free throws to push the contest to 76-73 Black Bear lead. The Bearcats turned the ball over on the final possession, as Maine earned their first America East win of the season.
On the stat sheet, Maine held advantages in field goal percentage (48.1% to 41.9%), rebounds (37-35), points in the paint (34-28), and in bench points (33-15).
The Bearcats were led by J.C. Show, who contributed 20 points and registered four steals in 33 minutes. Thomas Bruce added 12 points for Binghamton.
Maine has now won two-straight against Binghamton, and takes an 18-17 advantage in the all-time series with the win.
The Black Bears return home to the Cross Insurance Center for the first time in 31 days on Jan. 10, when Maine hosts UMBC in the America East home opener. The opening tip in Bangor is set for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night.