The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team is heading to the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball tournament despite losing to the Oswego State Lakers in the SUNYAC semifinals last Friday.
The Cardinals fell short to the Lakers, 81-74, ending the team’s hope to bring home a SUNYAC Championship this year.
Regardless of the tough home-court loss for the Cards in their first playoff game, PSUC received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Monday afternoon, enabling the Cards’ season to continue.
“We came up short in the SUNYACs, and I think we’re just happy to have a second chance, so we want to jump on top of that,” senior guard Xavier Thomas said. “We’re hungry, and we’re upset with how things ended.”
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, PSUC (21-5) is set to host the Fitchburg State Falcons (18-9) in a game where the Cards look to bounce back in a fresh start and an even bigger stage.
Thomas and fellow senior guard Edward Correa are fully prepared for what is at stake.
“The big thing that Ed and I are really focused on is the fact that it’s over. We have a new beginning, we have second chance and we can’t dwell on that,” Thomas said regarding the loss against Oswego and looking ahead to the game tonight.
Since the loss, PSUC held their first practice Monday and worked on getting back into the motions of basketball after the two day rest.
“We just scrimmaged and wanted to have fun playing,” head coach Tom Curle said, who is confident in how his team will play tonight.
Freshman sensation Jonathan Patron went down early in the second half against the Lakers last Friday, injuring his MCL, and is ruled out for the tournament.
“He’s our second leading scorer and second leading rebounder. When you take that out of a lineup, it is going to impact the team no matter who, where, when and why,” Curle said. “It gives somebody else an opportunity to play and step up.”
Freshmen Chris Middleton and Ian Howard are expected to see a lot more playing time at the forward position with Patron out. Both players have experience playing the forward position, but it isn’t necessarily their most comfortable position according to Curle.
“It’s heartbreaking for him,” sophomore forward Tim Smith said about Patron. “We’re trying to pick up the pieces from the loss and focus on bigger things now.”
The loss Friday in the SUNYACs didn’t completely discourage the Cards since they had such a phenomenal season, notching 21 wins in the regular season, so they were confident they were going to receive a bid into the tournament.
Not only did the team clinch a spot in the tournament, but they are one of 16 teams hosting the first round on the East Coast.
“I watched the selection show, and when it came on and I saw that we’re hosting and that we were in, it was like I had a sigh of relief,” Thomas said. “A lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders. Although we came short in the SUNYACs, I would definitely be happy walking away my senior year with a national championship.”
Curle is certain that the team is ready going into the game tonight at 7:30 p.m. inside Memorial Hall.
“I’ve really appreciated our community being at all of our games throughout all these years,” Thomas said. “It’s something that I’m going to really miss when this is all said and done. I hope they continue to pack Memorial. It’s been wonderful having them.”
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