By JOHN CORYER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Tom Curle knows it’s going to be very difficult for his Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team to pick up where it left off in the first semester.
“We’ve had 20 days off between our last practices and game,” said Curle. “It’s tough to decide what to do in practice. We review what we run offensively, do some conditioning and try to be prepared both mentally and physically.
“But to pick up where we left off is almost impossible because we haven’t played a game in so long. We had a great day of practice our first time out, an awful second day and a better practice our third day.”
The Cardinals open their second semester against nationally-ranked Franklin & Marshall tonight at 8 p.m. in the opening round of the Sponaugle New Year Tournament in Lancaster, Pa.
The first game of the day has Salisbury University taking on Eastern Connecticut State at 6 p.m.
The consolation and championship games are set for Thursday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.
Host Franklin & Marshall, which is ranked eighth in the nation in Division III, brings an 8-1 overall mark into the event.
The Diplomats’ last game, however, was a loss — an 86-73 setback to Transylvania in the championship game of the Don Lane Classic, held on December 19 in Lexington, Kentucky.
“They will still be probably ranked in the top 10 despite the loss,” said Curle. “They went to the Elite Eight last year.
“They will be a very good team for us to play and will be well prepared. Their coach has done a lot of winning in his career.”
Hayk Gyokchyan (16.9 points) and Matt Porter (12.4) are the leading scorers for the Diplomats.
The Diplomats are coached by Glenn Robinson, who has guided the program since the 1971-72 season. During that time, Robinson has a 841-306 coaching record and his teams have made it to the Division III Tournament five times.
Plattsburgh last played on the weekend of December 7-8 with home SUNY Athletic Conference wins over Fredonia (72-58) and Buffalo State (93-85) at Memorial Hall.
The Cardinals are 7-2 overall and can match their win total of last year by winning one game in the tournament.
“We’ve got hard-working kids and they support each other,” said Curle. “This tournament offers us a good chance to get warmed back up for conference play and get back in a competitive mode.
“The players are starting to understand. We have 16 games left, and 14 of them are in the conference. After this tournament, all our remaining games are in the conference. We’ve had a good start with a 3-1 record, but we still have 14 more games and anything can happen.
“Our goal is to secure a playoff spot and only six teams make it this year. We’re happy to be 3-1 in the conference right now, but we have a long way to go to achieve our goals. We want to continue to get better.”
Plattsburgh is getting balanced scoring, led by Shamoy McIntosh (11.0), John Perez (9.9), Ezra Hodgson (8.8) and Jordan Moody (8.3).
Salisbury is 9-3 overall and Eastern Connecticut State 6-4 overall as the four teams in the tourney have combined for a 30-10 record thus far on the season.
Franklin & Marshall will be the second nationally-ranked, non-conference opponent for the Cardinals this season. Middlebury College was the first.