---- — BY TIM PULSIFER
PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State wrapped up an outstanding first semester with a solid 71-60 win over Buffalo State in SUNY Athletic Conference women’s basketball at Memorial Hall Saturday afternoon.
For a third straight game, the Cardinals took down a team that had finished ahead of them in the conference standings a year ago. On Saturday afternoon, it was the defending conference champions that found out how much a difference a year can make.
Much as it had the previous night versus Fredonia, Plattsburgh played aggressive defense but struggled offensively in a back-and-forth opening half. The Cardinals connected on just nine of their 33 shot attempts in the first half and went into the break trailing 28-27.
“I thought, we should have been up at the half,” said Plattsburgh head coach Cheryl Cole, whose team had squandered an early 11-point advantage. “We were getting some good looks at the basket, but we just weren’t finishing. Thankfully, though, we were able to figure it out and turn things around in the second half.”
For a second straight outing, it was point guard Brittany Marshall who kept the boat afloat for the Cardinals in the early going. Marshall, who has been outstanding over the early part of the season, had 10 of her game-high 19 points, including a pair of long threes, to pace the home team in the opening stanza.
“That first half was a battle, but I think our conditioning took over in the second and turned out to be the difference in the game,” said Cole. “We were able to push the pace of the game in the second half and they just couldn’t keep up.
“I think the pace of the game and our defense just finally wore them down. I think we were the better conditioned and the stronger team at the end.”
The victory would come, but the contest was anyone’s game, knotted at 52, with just under six minutes remaining before Plattsburgh went on a 19-8 run to seal the victory.
Key contributions down the stretch for the Cardinals came from Brooke Reifinger, who nailed a pair of well-timed threes from deep in the corner and Tequilla Lloyd, who finished with 10 points, including a pair of field goals late in the game, in another strong all around performance.
Marshall and Kathleen Payne also played pivotal roles, calmly sinking several pressure-packed free throws down the stretch to help seal the deal for Plattsburgh.
Payne continued her early season struggles from the field, going 4-for-12 from the field, but still managed to finish with an impressive 16-point,14-rebound double-double, her first of the season.
“When a scorer is struggling to find their shot, the good ones will help you to win in other ways,” said Cole. “That’s what KP has done for us. The shot will come, but she’s playing great defense, been our top rebounder and one of the big reasons we’ve been successful to this point.”
For a third straight outing, Plattsburgh played outstanding team defense and rebounded the basketball extremely well. Buffalo State connected on just 23-of-65 of its field goal attempts (35 percent) for the game. The Plattsburgh defense also limited the Bengals leading scorer Bianca Smiley to just two field goals and five points. The Cardinals also outrebounded the Bengals, 54-42.
The only real bright spot for the visitors Saturday was the play of Ashley Wallace, who recorded a double-double of her own (12 points, 10 rebounds) to pace Buffalo State (3-4, 1-3).
“This was just a great way to finish our semester,” concluded Cole. “Our effort was just outstanding. We played with lots of energy and won most of the 50-50 balls.This was just a great team effort for us and a great way to go into the break.”
Saturday’s victory was only the Cardinals second win over the Bengals over their previous 10 head-to-head meetings and only their eighth decision over their conference foe all time.
Plattsburgh (5-2, 3-1 SUNYAC), riding a wave of early-season success, is idle until Dec. 29-30 when it travels to William Smith College and Skidmore College for a pair of non-conference matchups.
Plattsburgh State 71,
Buffalo State 60
Buffalo State (60)
Norris 3-1-7; Kell 2-5-9; Crawford 2-0-4; Wallace 4-4-12; Smiley 2-1-5; Kollar 1-0-3; Luciani 1-0-3; Reinholz 1-0-2; Bowman 2-0-4; Yastremski 1-0-2; Jackson 4-1-9. Totals: 23-12-60.
Plattsburgh State (71)
Marshall 7-3-19; Green 0-4-4; Payne 4-8-16; Cassidy 1-0-2; Nucaro 1-1-4; Lloyd 5-0-10; Reifinger 2-2-8; Paul 2-1-5; Coryea 0-2-2; Lewis 1-0-2. Totals: 23-20-71.
Halftime: Buffalo State, 28- 27.
3-point goals: Buffalo State (2), Kollar, Luciani. Plattsburgh State (5) Marshall 2; Nucaro; Reifinger 2.