PLATTSBURGH — Tom Curle didn’t want to sound overly negative.
The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball coach, however, was struggling with his thoughts some following the Cardinals’ 82-75 victory over Oneonta in SUNY Athletic Conference play on Saturday at Memorial Hall.
“Sometimes we rely on our athleticism rather than our skill,” he said. “That happened today. We will need to play better than this if we want to be one of the best teams in the conference.
“That said, we’re still 6-2 in the conference. We have the potential to be a very good basketball team.”
The Cardinals (10-5, 6-2), coming off Friday’s 75-70 home win over New Paltz, appeared to be headed on their way while jumping out to a 23-9 lead in the first half against the Red Dragons (2-12, 1-7), who had lost by 20 points the previous night in Potsdam.
But not so fast.
“No question, we took them lightly and getting off to the early lead like we did may have had something to do with it,” said Curle. “This was our worst defensive effort in a long time.
“I want our players to be loose. But they were past loose today. They were lackadaisical on the court.”
Plattsburgh settled for a 40-33 lead at the half and couldn’t shake Oneonta after intermission. In fact, the Red Dragons rallied for a 65-64 lead, their first lead since scoring the first basket of the game.
That’s when 5-8 guard Mike Mitchell took over. The smallest player on the court played big, scoring eight of Plattsburgh’s final 18 points as the Cardinals were able to regain the momentum down the stretch.
Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer prior to Oneonta tying the game, at 62-all.
After the Red Dragons took their one-point lead, he connected on a two-pointer and then another three to put the Cardinals ahead to stay.