The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball season has begun, and after dropping the first two games against Keene State and Skidmore College the Cardinals bounced back with a dazzling 95 point performance against St. Lawrence College.
The PSUC offense was exactly what head coach Thomas Curle wanted, a well-oiled machine. Junior guard and forward Chris Middleton had himself a career night with 27 points on 11-14 shooting from the field, two of three from deep and two blocks in 32 minutes. Five players reached double digits in scoring thanks to the game high of 19 assists.
However, it was the Cardinals’ defense that seemed too much for the St.Lawrence Saints to overcome. The defense accounted for 15 steals that resulted in 23 points, adding on to the dominance that was displayed in the paint the entire game.
“We played hard every possession, both on offense and defense,” senior guard Eli Bryant said. “Being able to keep that same level of intensity going into these next few games.”
Curle was adamant on making sure that the passing lanes are clogged on the defensive side, while the open man is always being looked for on the offensive side. Protecting the ball will be key if this offense wants to find its groove.
In the first two game, the Cards were reckless with the ball turning, it over a total of 41 times. Heading into their Tuesday matchup against the St.Lawrence Saints, the Cards were averaging more turnovers (20.5) than assists (13.5) a game. This is a trend that the team knew they had to get rid of.
“Not every pass has to be an assist, if we can set up open guys then the offense will flow better,” Curle said. “Getting into the flow of the offense allows us to play to our strengths.”
Guards Chris Middleton, Nick DeAngelis and Brandon Johnson went to work early accounting for 26 of 42 points scored in the first half. Johnson made life difficult for opposing guards, totaling four steals for the game, three of which came in the first half.
Holding the Saints to under 45% shooting from the field overall and 36% from the three, brought new life into this team. A glimpse of their full potential was on display Tuesday night, and they look to keep riding that momentum on both ends of the floor.
“We played great team defense,” senior guard Eric Mack said. “Guys were covering their man and putting a hand up for every shot that went up. If we play every game like that, we’re going to be tough matchup for anyone.”
Most of the damage was done in the paint when they scored 46 points, more than the combined total of the first two games. With bodies constantly moving on offense, numerous passing options were available, making it impossible for the ball to stick in their hands.
Middleton was the prime example of the play when it comes to the flow of the offense and keeping himself moving when the ball is not in his hands.
“He’s a 6’6 guard, so we look to take advantage of his physical attributes when he’s on the floor,” Curle said.”When’s he’s in attack mode and is consistently hitting his mid-range shot, it puts a lot more pressure on the defense.”
Staying in a positive mindset at the start of the season, and then dropping two games is tough on any team. However, the resiliency shown from this year’s team gives them reason not to be worried. For them, gaining consistency on the defensive end is top priority and a point of emphasis this season.
As a collective unit, they had played average defense, but the Cards turned it up in the third game, showing vast improvements from last season and previous games. The improvement on defense is ahead of schedule and it comes just in time.
“It’s honestly the biggest surprise,” Mack said. “Collectively we’ve made a vast improvement on defense and look to keep improving on that.”
Eli Bryant is fully aware that this isn’t a time to celebrate, but the most important time of the season.
“[We] just have to stay hungry and stay aggressive on both ends,” Bryant said. “We continue to play that aggressive style of play, and it’ll be hard to stop us.”
The Cardinals will now shift their focus to this weekend’s opponents, Fredonia and Buffalo State. Fredonia will come into town on today at 7:30 p.m. followed by Buffalo State tomorrow at 3 p.m. Both games will be hosted in Memorial Hall, and the Cards will look to win.
Email John Peralta at firstname.lastname@example.org