PLATTSBURGH — Tom Curle can’t say enough good things about the Middlebury College men’s basketball team.
Curle’s Plattsburgh State team closes out the nonconference portion of its schedule against the Panthers at 8 p.m. tonight in Middlebury.
Last season, nationally-ranked Middlebury recorded an 80-73 win over Plattsburgh at Memorial Hall.
“Middlebury is well coached,” Curle said. “They shoot the ball well and run their stuff. They are tough at home and their players have played in some very big games, including the NCAA Tournament.
“They will push the ball. Middlebury has some very strong inside guys who can score in the post. They are a good offensive rebounding team. We will need to play very well defensively and protect the paint, holding them to one shot. This is going to be a difficult match-up for us.”
The Panthers, who are 6-3 overall, last played on January 2 in a 76-69 loss at Salve Regina. Middlebury, which competes in the NESCAC, is averaging 84 points a game and surrendering 77.
The Panthers have five players in double figures — Joey Kizel (18.0), Dylan Sinnickson (14.5), Hunter Merryman (14.4), James Jensen (12.5) and Matt St. Amour (10.0). Sinnickson, however, played in only the first two games of the season before being injured.
“They lost a couple of seniors from last year,” Curle said. “Middlebury is currently ranked 19th in the country (in Division III), but they lost their last game. They have lost two games against very good teams.
“Kizel is a key player for them. He is sound fundamentally. He hits big outside shots for them, but can also get to the rim and go to the line a lot. He doesn’t make many mistakes and knows how to draw contact.
“Sinnickson might be back to play against us. He was dressed for their last game, but didn’t play.”
The Cardinals (6-2 overall, 1-1 SUNYAC) last played in the Land of Magic Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla. where they recorded a 71-68 win over Millikin on Dec. 29 and a 62-40 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Stout on Dec. 30.
This is the final tune-up for Plattsburgh, which returns to SUNY Athletic Conference play this weekend, hosting Geneseo on Friday and The College of Brockport on Saturday at Memorial Hall.
“This is the last nonconference game we play and, so far, we’re 5-1 in them,” Curle said. “We want to close it out in good order.
“If we do play well, we would have been pretty successful in our nonconference games.”
Plattsburgh has three players averaging in double figures — Shamoy McIntosh (15.4), Shavar Fields (13.9) and John Perez (10.3).
Jordan Moody (11.8) was also averaging in double figures, but he is no longer a member of the team after deciding to pursue other interests. The Cardinals have already lost big man Reggie Williams for the season with an injury and he is expected to return next year.
Plattsburgh’s depth, a strength entering the 2013-14 season, will now be tested.
“This gives someone else the opportunity to step up and perform,” Curle said. “This game is the start of a big time coming up for us and we need to stay focused and together.”
Fields is one player on the team who has especially stepped up his game thus far this season.
Perez leads the Cardinals with 8.8 rebounds a game and Chris Manning is tops in assists at 4.9 per contest.