for this game

Binghamton beats Bloomsburg 54-49

Nov 14, 2009 - 10:52 PM By JOHN KEKIS AP Sports Writer

VESTAL, N.Y.(AP) -- Moussa Camara exhaled ever so slowly, smiling ever so slightly because the first game of a new season and a new era in the Binghamton men's basketball program had ended in victory.

And it didn't matter that it came against a Division II team that won only four games last season.

"It's pretty good," Camara said Saturday after scoring a career-high 16 points and the defending America East champions had eked out a 54-49 victory over Bloomsburg. "We're just happy to get a win."

That's understandable.

This Binghamton team is a far cry from the one that won 11 straight in 2008-09 and earned the school's first NCAA tournament berth. These Bearcats have five freshmen and include six walk-ons, with only three players back from a year ago. Walk-on Charlie Fackler is the lone senior, and he hasn't played organized basketball in four years.

Six players from last year's squad were kicked off the team following the arrest in September of star guard Emanuel "Tiki" Mayben for possessing and selling cocaine.

Longtime athletic director Joel Thirer then resigned and head coach Kevin Broadus was placed on indefinite paid leave after violating NCAA recruiting rules that the school self-reported. A retired New York City judge is overseeing an independent investigation into the athletic department and will turn over the results to the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Mark Macon, an assistant who had played for disciplinarian John Chaney at Temple, was named interim coach. He took over a team reduced to seven scholarship players - his top returning scorer, Chretien Lukusa, averaged 4.4 points last season - and has to find a way to replace the lost players, who accounted for 89 percent of the scoring.

Mayben, who pleaded not guilty and remains a student, was in the stands watching Saturday's game but declined to speak.

The Bearcats began tentatively and committed six turnovers in the first four minutes, falling behind 8-0 on a follow tip by Larry Webster. They slowly settled down after a two-handed dunk by Wright, a junior college transfer from City College of San Francisco, off a lob from Dylan Talley gave them their first basket.

"I think we were nervous, the first game, the crowd and everything," said Lukusa, who finished with six points. "We didn't run the offense well enough. We've got to have a better start in the future."

Lukusa followed with a 3 as the crowd erupted in a loud ovation. Two free throws by Talley moved Binghamton within 18-14 and Wright's putback tied it at 18 with 7:04 left.

Camara, one of the three returning players, hit a 3 from left wing at 2:47 to give Binghamton its first lead, 26-24. Talley's driving layup gave the Bearcats a 28-26 halftime edge they never relinquished, though they never led by more than seven in the second and were only up by a basket with 3:24 left.

"It was a real good game," Macon said. "Bloomsburg gave us a great challenge. I was shocked how we came out and played the first 10 minutes. Luckily, we got aggressive offensively, got aggressive defensively, took the lead and held onto it.

"I commend my guys, I commend our fans for sticking with us."

Wright had 15 points and 10 rebounds in his debut for the Bearcats, who received a somewhat reserved standing ovation in pregame festivities from the crowd of 3,711. Talley finished with 10 points, two assists and three steals in the spot that Mayben once held. Binghamton shot just 33.3 percent, 20 percent on 3s (4 of 20), and had only six assists to go with 15 turnovers.

Ed Hall led the Huskies with 11 points and Greg Elliott had 10.

"I thought if we went out and executed, just gave the effort, I thought we had a chance," Bloomsburg coach John Sanow said. "I think they've got good talent. I think they've just got some inexperience, some guys that need to get game experience. Once they get that, they're going to be a pretty good team this year."

The Bearcats may be relieved to get through the opener. Tuesday night is another matter - they travel to play Big East power Pitt.