DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. It took just 4:48 into the second half for the Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team to squander a 39-28 halftime lead.
And the Cardinals nearly squandered a 5-point lead in the final minute of play.
Plattsburgh, however, hung tough when it needed to and escaped with a 71-68 victory over Millikin University in the Land of Magic Classic on Sunday night.
“For the most part of 34 minutes, we played with great energy and enthusiasm, even on the bench,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “We played excellent defense and we rebounded well as a team. We didn’t have one player with a lot of rebounds, but it was spread out across the board.”
Shavar Fields led the Cardinals (5-2) with 17 points, including a 7-for-7 performance from the foul line where Plattsburgh struggled in the first half. The Cardinals hit on 26-of-40 from the line, including 13-of-23 in the first half.
Plattsburgh did go 13-of-17 from the charity stripe over the final 20 minutes, including two free throws by Mike Mitchell with two seconds remaining that gave the Cardinals a 71-67 lead.
“Shavar had a great game and they had trouble guarding him,” Curle said. “But we like to move the ball and create shots.
“But, because of the success he was having, we started trying to get the ball inside to him and that’s not how we play. We’re not a pound the ball inside team and watch him go to work. They were able to take advantage of that.”
Shamoy McIntosh added 15 points for Plattsburgh, while Mitchell and John Perez each tossed in 10.
Tives Gardner paced the Big Blue (6-5) with 17 points and Jacob Kueker added 16. Leading scorer T.J. Griffin, who is averaging just over 20 points per game, was limited to seven.
“Shamoy had a great game guarding him,” Curle said. “I don’t think Griffin was used to being guarded by a player bigger and stronger than him, but also just as quick.”
Plattsburgh took a 39-28 halftime lead, with Fields the catalyst with 13 points, including 4-of-4 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line.
But Millikin battled back early in the second half and grabbed a 42-41 lead with 15:02 left in the contest.
“One of the things I was concerned about going into the game was defending their pick-and-roll,” Curle said. “But we did a great job of that in the first half.
“But, in the second half, we got away from it and didn’t communicate well. That was disconcerting. Offensively, they were able to do better. We have to learn to come into the second half with great energy and play great defense.”
It went back-and-forth after that and the Cardinals would eventually take a 69-64 edge into the final minute of play.
But Gardner cut the Big Blue’s deficit to 69-67 with a 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining and Millikin had an opportunity to retake the lead following a Plattsburgh turnover. Kueker, however, missed a 3-pointer with nine seconds left and Mitchell sealed it with two from the line.
“The turnover was a call for an illegal screen,” Curle said. “I’ll have to look at that one on tape. They then got a real good look at a 3-pointer and looked like they might get the rebound.
“But, Xavier Thomas got a hand on it, and the ball went to Mike (Mitchell), who then hit two foul shots.”
Kueker was fouled on a 3-point attempt with a second to go, missed the first two free throws and made the third to make it a 3-point game. Time, however, ran out on the Big Blue.
“I wanted our guys to back away and not foul them on a 3-pointer,” Curle said. “But the official called the foul.
“Nothing comes easy for us.”
The Cardinals were able to prevail despite connecting on just 3-of-15 shots from 3-point range.
“The three threes we did hit were big ones,” Curle said. “Ezra (Hogdson) hit two of them and Mitchell’s three gave us a 1-point lead in the late going.”
Plattsburgh closes out the trip to Florida with a 4 p.m. game today against Wisconsin-Stout, which dropped a 68-56 decision to Millikin on Saturday.
“They were ranked earlier in the season and it’s going to be a big test for us,” Curle said.
Plattsburgh State 71, Millikin 68
Plattsburgh State (71)
Mitchell 3-3-10, Correa 1-1-3, Manning 2-1-5, McIntosh 4-7-15, Perez 3-4-10, Thomas 1-1-3, Fields 5-7-17, Baker 0-0-0, Hodgson 2-2-8, Williams 0-0-0, Siergiej 0-0-0. Totals: 21-26-71.
Gardner 6-3-17, Griffin 2-3-7, Day 1-2-4, Kinmon 1-0-3, Kueker 4-6-16, Johnson 4-0-8, Knapp 1-0-2, Plachas 3-0-7, Owens 1-0-2, Agnew 1-0-2, Edwards 0-0-0, Wilfer 0-0-0, Bollier 0-0-0. Totals: 24-14-68.
3-point goals: Plattsburgh State (3): Hodgson 2; Mitchell. Millikin (6): Gardner 2; Kueker 2; Kinmon; Plachas.
Halftime: Plattsburgh State, 39-28.