earns rave reviews after hosting America East Men's Basketball Championship
Binghamton University heated up an otherwise frigid winter season with
some big-time basketball at the Events Center in early March. The campus
hosted the 10-team 2005 America East Men's Basketball Championship,
and the three-day event was an unqualified success. After nearly a year
of preparation, Binghamton welcomed thousands of players, school officials,
fans and media to the Events Center, where fans witnessed eight exciting
basketball games, including two Binghamton games that rank as the most-watched
home athletic events in school history.
After a stunning upset of Boston University in the regular-season finale,
head coach Al Walker's team earned the No. 5 seed for the tournament,
and faced No. 4 seed and longtime SUNY rival Albany in a quarterfinal
game. In front of a standing-room-only crowd of 5,222, the Bearcats built
an eight-point halftime lead and held off the Great Danes, 76-70, much
to the delight of the raucous Events Center crowd. After the game, several
players were quoted as saying they could feel the basketball court vibrate.
One day later, Binghamton lined up against two-time defending champion
and heavily favored Vermont in a semifinal, which was broadcast live on
satellite across the country. An equally electric crowd of 5,003 urged
on the underdog Bearcats, who stayed within eight points at halftime before
the senior-laden Catamounts pulled away. Junior guard Andre Heard, a second-team
America East all-star, scored 20 points, and senior forward Alex Adediran
netted 21 points in his final collegiate game.
Men finish strong
The tournament attendance figure of 15,977 was more than double the attendance
at the previous championship, held in Boston, and the single-day total
of 8,284 for the quarterfinals represented the third-highest figure in
the 24 years of the championship. "There was not one aspect of this
entire weekend we wouldn't consider a success," America East
Associate Commissioner Julie Ruppert said. "From the organization
to the fans, the community, the atmosphere, everything was first rate,
First class could also describe the personality and basketball career
of popular seven-foot center Nick Billings, who ended his collegiate tenure
during the tournament. Billings wound up with 336 career blocks, which
ranks first at Binghamton and second in America East history.
The men's team shook off a slow start to win seven of its final
10 games, thanks to a Division I-best five-game win streak in February.
Women show promise
On the women's side, head coach Rich Conover led a young Bearcats
team to 10 victories and a fifth place finish in the conference. Junior
forward Rachel Laws became the first Binghamton basketball player to earn
back-to-back first-team all-conference honors, and freshman Laura Sario
was named to the all-rookie team. The Bearcats showed their promise by
shutting down America East champion Hartford, 51-37, in a late-season
win, and will return all five starters and 10 letter winners next season.
Other winter highlights
Several other winter-sport athletes excelled in their respective seasons,
highlighted by pole vaulter Rory Quiller and swimmer Kaan Tayla. Quiller,
just a sophomore, became the first Binghamton track and field athlete
to advance to the NCAA Division I Championship when he cleared a school-record
17 feet 6 1/2 inches at the America East Championship. At the world-class
national meet hosted by University of Arkansas, Quiller placed 12th in
the field. Also a standout hurdler and heptathlete, Quiller boosted his
own school record in the heptathlon during the indoor season and broke
the University record in the 60-meter hurdles. Among his numerous accolades
were a pole vault title at the Penn State National Open and recognition
as the Most Outstanding Field Events athlete for a second straight year
at the America East Championship. Quiller was the lone America East athlete
to advance to the NCAA Men's Championship.
In the pool, freshman Kaan Tayla showcased his Olympic-level talent for
the men's team, leading the Bearcats to a runner-up finish at the
America East Championship. Tayla, who swam for Turkey at the 2004 Olympic
Games in Greece, was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer and the Most Outstanding
Rookie at the conference meet after racking up seven first-place swims,
including individual titles in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle events.
Tayla's winning time in the 100 free (45.11 seconds) matched the
University of Maryland-Baltimore County pool record held by fellow Olympian
and American sensation Michael Phelps. In all, Tayla was part of three
America East-record relay performances. One week later, he shattered ECAC
Championship records in winning the 50 and 100 free, achieving NCAA provisional
qualifying marks in each race.
Also during the winter season, former NCAA finalist and two-time All-American
Tony Robie was hired to lead the wrestling team back to the mat for the
2005-06 campaign. Robie was a top assistant for a University of Michigan
program that earned national top-10 status during each of his four years.
He will become just the fourth head coach in Binghamton's illustrious
wrestling history, which includes four national champions and six NCAA