Plattsburgh State, arguably the most conditioned team in the SUNY Athletic Conference, will need everything it has in the tank this weekend as it goes one one of its longest road trips of the season.
The Cardinals face Buffalo State (11-3, 6-1 SUNYAC) tonight and Fredonia (8-5, 3-4) Saturday in women’s basketball.
“It’s going to be a very high-paced weekend,” Plattsburgh coach Cheryl Cole said. “Both teams are one of the toughest to play in the conference.”
The three teams have the top scoring offenses in SUNYAC, as the Blue Devils lead the conference with 70.8 points a game, while the Cardinals (11-3, 6-1), and Bengals are tied for second, averaging 69.4 points a contest.
Buffalo State is led by senior Staci McElroy, who didn’t suit up for the Bengals last year but decided to return this season. The 5-foot-9-inch guard leads her team with 13.7 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field while also averaging 6.3 rebounds a contest.
“(McElroy) is a smooth kid who moves real well off the ball and is tenacious around the basket,” Cole said. “Her coming back makes them very potent.”
Bianca Smiley is second in scoring for Buffalo State behind McElroy with 11.5 points per game while also hauling in almost nine boards a contest.
“Buffalo State has the best post player in the conference in my opinion (in Smiley),” Cole said. “She’s really smooth; really smart. She’s going to be a handful.”
The Bengals’ roster is much like Plattsburgh’s — filled with veteran leadership, quickness and athleticism. Both teams also like to add pressure with a full-court press and a run-and-gun offense.
“Here’s a team that is just as quick and athletic as we are,” Cole said. “They’re very well rounded; they’re style is to press and get out and run.”
“They transition very well. (It’s) going to be a great match-up,” Cole added. “(We’re) hoping to take advantage of our size on the boards.”
Buffalo State is averaging a healthy 39.4 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from behind the arc while pulling in nearly 44 boards a game. But the most impressive stat is its 13.6 turnover average, which is the best in SUNYAC.
“We’re going to go in there with nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Cole said. “Bottom line, I feel like we can go in there and steal one from them; we’re anxious to see them.”
Fredonia, on the other hand, has had an up-and-down season, losing woefully to the likes of Oneonta, Oswego and Geneseo. But recently it trounced the first-place Bengals 81-58, handing its rivals their first conference loss of the season.
“What that tells you is that they’re inconsistent,” Cole explained. “When they haven’t played well, I think that’s when teams figured out how to slow them down.”
The Blue Devils lead the conference in field-goal percentage at nearly 44 percent a game, mainly due to easy buckets in the transition, while also tallying an impressive 16.7 assists per contest.
“This is the best running team in the conference I think; it puts a lot of pressure on our transition defense,” Cole said. “(We need to) make sure to sprint down the floor, make them play half-court offense and don’t allow any easy layups.”
Fredonia currently has the highest-scoring player in the SUNYAC in Becky Herbert. The senior guard is averaging almost 23 points and five boards a game while shooting a remarkable 56.8 percent from the floor.
“(Herbert) gets a lot of quiet points,” Cole said. “She moves tremendously well off the ball.”
Jamie Warren is the Blue Devils’ second leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points and nine rebounds per game. She shoots an impressive 53.4 percent from the field.
“They work real hard, they’ll be a very tough Saturday game,” Cole said.
As for the Cardinals, history might be made this weekend as senior Kathleen Payne is just 25 points away from becoming the program’s all-time scoring leader. Currently she trails Alicia LaValley and Donna Dixon, who have 1,436 and 1,417 points respectively.