Cardinal guard Sasha Vidrini drives against UVM guard TJ Long. Almost half of the Cards’ 41 points came in the paint, with 20.
By Michael Purtell
The Cardinals danced on a Division 1 stage as it visited the University of Vermont Catamounts in Burlington, Vermont Saturday, Nov 11th for the first time since 1996. Plattsburgh State lost the game 41-92.
The contest featured a crowd of 2,389 and was featured on ESPN+. The crowd dwarfed any Plattsburgh’s campus had seen this season, with the largest being 1,325 spectating men’s hockey against Brockport Nov 11.
The Catamount crowd was rowdy as they supported their team on the Veterans Day matchup. Plattsburgh fans joined the crowd as well, making an out-of-state trip to support the birds. The stands were big and loud.
“The environment was great. You all dream about playing Division I basketball when you grow up playing basketball, so it was great. Everyone was excited,” junior guard Franklin Infante said. “It was great to see all the people out here from Plattsburgh support us, family and all that, so it’s great times, really fun.”
The Cards were entering with a size disadvantage. The Catamounts had an average height of 6 feet 5 inches, while the Cardinals are on average 6 feet 2 inches. This gap in height allowed UVM to hunt smaller defenders throughout the contest through constant use of ball-screens.
UVM’s Ileri Ayo-Faleye yams it home after breaking down Plattsburgh’s coverage.
In positions like this, it becomes important for defenses to fight over screens and play aggressive defense, rather than relying on switching and positioning, which we saw from the Cardinals throughout the contest.
“They’re very big across the board. Their backcourt is almost just as big as our frontcourt and so we were trying to make sure we minimized our switching situations as much as possible,” Head Coach Mike Blaine said. “So we were trying to keep our matchups as consistent as we could.”
This hard-nosed defensive strategy was the overarching theme for the Cardinals. Plattsburgh hustled no matter the score and made the most of the bright lights. Cardinals were sprinting back on defense, clogging passing lanes to earn deflections, doubling ball handlers, and fighting heart-over-height for rebounds and loose balls. Five different Cardinals had notched a steal by the end of the contest.
Jeremiah Smith steps into the paint with his eyes on the basket.
Senior forward Orlando Dawkins gave the crowd Plattsburgh’s defensive highlight with 12 minutes left and a Vermont lead of 72-25. Dawkins smothered a Catamount’s layup attempt — a great showing of how had the team played even with the score out of reach
The passionate play of the Cardinals came from a desire to grow as a team, who are looking to break into the SUNYAC postseason this year after coming two wins short last year. Games like these against strong programs are essential for providing the team with good film to study heading into the rest of the season.
Sasha Vidrini has his shot blocked.
Graduate student forward/guard Dylan Trombley led the Cards in scoring with 10 points. He said the team took much from the contest.
“When we focused, we executed well. When we weren’t timid about it, we did some things well,” Trombley said. “We took a lot of positive things away from today about ourselves.”
Blaine echoed this sentiment, with some elaboration on what it means to execute well.
“I want to look at the things that are translatable regardless of opponent, basically, how are we executing? How are we executing our sets? How are we flowing out of transition? Where’s the effort and the urgency in our defensive rotations? Are we getting the spots that we need to get to?” Blaine said. “We want to make sure that we were doing the things that we’re supposed to do to the best of our ability, regardless of opponent.”
Plattsburgh State lost to the St. Lawrence Saints 66-90 Tuesday, Nov 14. The Cardinals will take their newfound experience into its home opener Saturday, Nov. 18. The Cards’ first SUNYAC match will be Friday, Dec. 1 at SUNY Cortland.