Plattsburgh State’s men’s basketball team has plenty to be positive about after the end of its regular season. The Cardinals will host the SUNYAC championship as the No. 1 seed.
PSUC, who is ranked No. 21 in the d3hoops.com Top-25 poll, received a bye in the first round for earning the top seed and will play in a semifinal tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The Cards (20-4, 17-1) will tip off against fifth-seeded SUNY Oswego (14-12, 10-8), who knocked off the fourth-seeded SUNY Geneseo in the quarterfinal round Tuesday.
Prior to that game, Memorial Hall will also be the site a 5:30 p.m. semifinal clash between the second-seeded College at Brockport (19-6, 14-4) and sixth-seeded SUNY Oneonta (13-13, 8-10).
The two winning semifinalists will meet to decide the champion at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Head coach Tom Curle maintained the significance of not underestimating opponents, especially with PSUC being the first seed in the tournament.
“If you underestimate people, you don’t win, so it’s really important that you take every opponent seriously,” Curle said. “Championship teams don’t take their opponents lightly.”
The Cards finished strong with two wins against SUNY Oneonta and SUNY New Paltz, bringing their winning streak to 17 games. Senior guard Eli Bryant scored his 1,000th career point Saturday.
PSUC secured a 95-74 victory over Oneonta on Feb. 16 with strong performances from junior forward Jonathan Patron, Bryant and junior guard Brandon Johnson. Patron had 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Byrant and Johnson finished the game with 22 and 14 points respectively.
The Cards had a three-point-percentage of 43.3 and started off the game with a 10-point run.
PSUC dominated New Paltz, finishing with a final score of 102-69, as the Cards honored their senior players for Senior Night. Senior guard Eric Mack scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double, and senior guard Tim Smith finished with 10 points.
The highlight of the game was Bryant shooting a three-pointer to score his 1000th career point for PSUC. Bryant, a Staten Island native, outlined his thoughts and feelings for his achievement.
“It was just an exciting feeling going into the game and then I was trying to pass the ball to get my team set up and everything because everybody was looking for me,” Bryant said. “I thought that they were going to double-team me, but getting my team going got me going and then, that’s when I hit the three.”
Although the Cards were jubilant about their performances against Oneonta and New Paltz, they still have a daunting task ahead of them: They need two more wins before they can claim the SUNYAC championship. Head coach Tom Curle clearly stated the team’s main objective as they head into playoffs.
“Our goal this year was to make the playoffs because we didn’t make it last year, but now the mission is to win a championship,” Curle said. “We set the goal that was accomplished and now the mission begins.”
Despite securing the top seed, the focus is still on getting better. Curle suggested a few elements of PSUC’s game that can be improved in time for the SUNYAC playoffs.
“We’re a very good rebounding team, but not a great box-out team, so we rely on our athleticism, but there’s going to be times when just technically we want to make sure we’re boxing out a little more effectively and cutting down our turnovers,” Curle said.
The Cards also view team chemistry and support as integral to team success. Ian Howard, a junior forward for the Cards, shared his thoughts about the importance of team chemistry and support.
“Team chemistry is important because as you can see, we’ve been playing good lately,” Howard said. “We’ve been passing the ball, sharing the ball and it’s been working for us.”
Team support contributing to success is also essential off the court, especially with recent issues in the PSUC community. In response to the developing racial tensions on campus, Bryant shared his thoughts.
“The situation that happened with the girl, I think it’s a very sad situation,” Bryant said. “It’s bad for the community.”
Bryant also hopes the Cards can be a positive example for the PSUC community.
“But I see what this team is doing, and we have a very diverse team,” Bryant said. “We have people from all over the world: Germany, Taiwan and all different races. We all work together, so hopefully this team can bring light to the situation. It’s a good atmosphere here.”
The Cards will look to maintain this sense of cooperation tonight, as they face the SUNY Oswego at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.
Email Nate Mundt at firstname.lastname@example.org