CORTLAND — Mike Mitchell was the smallest player on the court Saturday.
Mitchell, however, had by far the biggest impact on the game.
The 5-foot-7-inch junior point guard scored 20 points, including 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, to power the Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team to a 64-61 victory over defending SUNY Athletic Conference champion Cortland.
“We had to scrap, fight and claw today,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said.
“I’m very proud of Mike. He struggled the day before, and you could see it bothered him. His confidence was shaken. But every shot he hit today was a big one.”
The Cardinals (4-2, 1-1) bounced back from Friday’s 73-70 loss at Oswego, while the Red Dragons (4-1, 1-1) fell from the unbeaten ranks.
“Last year, we went 1-1 on this trip and it put us in motion,” Curle said. “I think we snuck up on people down here last year, but we got our opponents’ best efforts the last two days. These were grueling games.
“I’m very happy with our effort. The players had a lot on their minds with final exams coming up this week.”
Shamoy McIntosh added 12 points and John Perez nine for Plattsburgh. McIntosh and Perez also had nine rebounds each, while Chris Manning dished out five assists.
Lamard Herron paced Cortland with 21 points, and Garen Spendjian added 12. Kevin McMahon finished with a double-double, 10 points and 16 rebounds.
The Red Dragons held a 33-31 lead at the half.
“We came out a little sloppy and it was a defensive battle,” Curle said.
The Red Dragons went up 39-34 with 16:24 left in the contest. Cortland still held a 56-50 advantage with 5:35 left on a Herron layup.
The Cardinals battled back to tie it 59-all before McMahon’s jumper with 1:18 gave the Red Dragons a 61-59 edge.
Those, however, would be the final points for Cortland.
Mitchell put Plattsburgh ahead to stay with a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining and then added two free throws with 17 ticks left to put the Cardinals up 64-61.
The Cardinals forced the Red Dragons into a turnover, but Plattsburgh missed two from the line that would have sealed it with nine seconds remaining.
Herron then missed a 3-point attempt with two seconds left, and Shavar Fields grabbed the rebound to preserve the win.
“It came down to players at the end making plays,” Curle said. “McIntosh and Mitchell made some big plays for us.
“One other thing was that we turned the ball over only three times in the second half after 11 turnovers in the first half.”
The Cardinals shot 39 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range and 71 percent from the line. Plattsburgh also held a 38-35 rebounding edge and forced Cortland into 17 turnovers.
“Cortland is a very good defender of the basket,” Curle said. “Every game in the conference is different.
“Winning the game today was a really good way of heading into the Christmas break. It’s a lot better being 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference rather than 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference.
“Our players need to continue to work hard.”
Plattsburgh State 64, Cortland State 61
Plattsburgh State (64)
Manning 1-1-3, McIntosh 5-1-12, Perez 3-3-9, Fields 2-2-6, Moody 1-0-2, Mitchell 6-2-20, Correa 0-2-2, Thomas 1-0-2, Siergiej 1-1-3, Hodgson 2-0-5. Totals: 22-12-64.
Cortland State (61)
Hefele 1-0-3, Herron 7-3-21, Kelly 2-0-5, Kearney 0-0-0, McMahon 4-2-10, Fielder 0-2-2, Glascoe 2-3-8, Spendjian 5-1-12, McGowan 0-0-0, Estarfaa 0-0-0. Totals: 21-11-61.
Halftime: Cortland, 33-31.
3-point goals: Plattsburgh State (8): Mitchell 6; McIntosh; Hodgson. Cortland State (8): Herron 4; Hefele; Kelly; Glascoe; Spendjian.