BY TIM PULSIFER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — For the better part of the second semester, the Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team had been looking for that one signature performance against one of the best teams in the conference.
On Saturday afternoon they got just that, coming from behind to stun SUNY Athletic Conference power Geneseo, 53-49, at Memorial Hall.
Simply put, Plattsburgh knocked off one the best teams in the conference by playing two halves of superior team defense.
The Cardinal defense forced 26 turnovers and limited the highest scoring team in the conference, averaging 67.5 points per game entering this weekend’s play, to a season-low 49 points on just 17-of-51 shooting (33%).
“This was a huge win for us, just huge,” Plattsburgh coach Cheryl Cole said. “We turned them over 26 times, executed our game plan on defense to a tee and stuck to it for 40 minutes and that’s why we won the game.”
The Cardinal defense was the primary story on Saturday afternoon but, it did not hurt to have a player the caliber of Kathleen Payne on their side either.
Payne, who was limited to five points in the opening half, took over late in the second stanza and finished with a team-high 17 points, including several clutch buckets down the stretch when the game stood in the balance to lead Plattsburgh.
Payne finished 3-for-5 from 3-point range for the game, including a clutch dagger as the shot clock wound down late in the second half. The Goshen standout also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds against a much taller opponent.
“KP just had an outstanding all-around game,” Cole said. “There are players who want the ball in those type of pressure situations and KP is just one of those players. She wants the ball in those situations. She’s been that way all her career here and really stepped up for us again (Saturday).”
The Cardinals came out strong and led early but went into a shooting funk that lasted nearly nine minutes, resulting in a 27-21 deficit at the half.
“In the first half, we were getting the shots we wanted, we just weren’t hitting them for a while,” Cole said. “At halftime I told the team we didn’t have to make any drastic changes, we were outplaying them, we just needed to stick with the way we were executing and eventually the shots would start to fall, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Plattsburgh continued to hold the Geneseo offense at bay after the break and began whittling away at the deficit, mostly in transition. The Cardinals finally pulled into the lead by a point at 38-37 on a pretty turnaround jumper by Tequilla Lloyd with just over 10 minutes remaining.
From there, play went back-and-forth with neither team able to create any significant separation. The game became extremely tight over the final few minutes and remained a one possession game until Payne connected from long range with just over 46 seconds left in regulation. A couple of defensive stops later the Cardinals were finally able to celebrate what, to this point, was their biggest win of the 2012-2013 season.
“This was just a complete team effort, I couldn’t be any happier with the way we played today,” Cole said. “Our backs were to the wall and everyone really responded with a tremendous effort. We still have work to do but, this was just a tremendous team win.”
Plattsburgh’s upset victory spoiled an outstanding all-around performance by Geneseo’s Melissa Graham, who connected on 4-of-8 shots from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 19 points. The Blue Knights (16-6, 12-4 SUNYAC) had entered Saturday’s game a red-hot team, second in the conference overall, having won seven of their last eight matchups.
With just three regular season games remaining, Plattsburgh (11-11, 7-8 SUNYAC) will next host Potsdam this Tuesday night at Memorial Hall at 6 p.m.
Plattsburgh State 53, Geneseo 49
Cohan 0-0-0; Heiselman 1-0-3; McGinnis 4-0-8; Graham 6-3-19; McKenna 3-3-9; Manfredi 0-1-1; Peterson 1-2-4; Hill 0-0-0; Lewis 2-1-5. Totals: 17-10-49.
Plattsburgh State (54)
Marshall 2-0-5; Green 4-1-9; Paul 2-1-5; Payne 7-0-17; Cassidy 0-0-0; Lloyd 3-0-6; Reifinger 2-0-4; Nucaro 1-0-3; Lewis 1-2-4. Totals: 22-4-53.
Halftime: Geneseo 27- 21.
3-point goals: Geneseo (5) Graham 4, Heiselman. Plattsburgh State (5) Marshall, Payne 3, Nucaro.