By TIM PULSIFER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — It will be one final tuneup before returning to conference play as Plattsburgh State plays host to Norwich University in women’s basketball action tonight at Memorial Hall.
The Cardinals and Cadets are scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m.
Plattsburgh (6-3, 3-1 SUNYAC) had a successful first semester, winning four of its last five, including three big wins in succession over conference rivals Cortland, Fredonia and Buffalo State.
The Cardinals, who currently sit in third place just a game out of first place in the SUNYAC standings, return to conference action this weekend at Geneseo and Brockport, but first must deal with a historically strong contingency from across the lake.
“This is a very good game for us,” said Plattsburgh head coach Cheryl Cole. “We’ve been off for a week after the NYU tourney and this will be a good opportunity for us to fine-tune some things and, hopefully, build some momentum that we can carry into the weekend.”
The Cardinals, who recently split two non-conference games versus William Smith and Skidmore College at the NYU Holiday Classic, have demonstrated noted improvement in the areas of defense and rebounding thus far, but still have lacked the consistency, at times, necessary to compete with the conference elites over the course of the second half of the season.
“We know we need to continue to work hard in order to get better,” said Cole. “We’ve looked very good in stretches but we know we need to be able to get after people and play a more physical style of basketball for 40 minutes on a consistant basis. That’s been our identity so far and a game like this one can help us re-establish that as we move forward with our season.”
Defense and rebounding have been the calling cards in the early going but Plattsburgh has also had some solid contributions thus far on the offensive side. Kathleen Payne, Brittany Marshall, Tequilla Loyd, Devona Paul, Catherine Cassidy, Dana Nucaro and Brooke Reifinger are all coming off solid first semesters and the bench has been equally formidable to this point for the Cardinals.
Tonight’s opponent is a bit of a mystery although the Cardinals and Cadets square off on an annual basis. The only common opponent thus far has been a strong Middlebury College squad that scored an 81-73 victory over Plattsburgh, back on Nov. 25 and a 72-44 blowout of Norwich on Dec. 4.
The Cadets, led by Aliah Curry (20.9 ppg) and Jessalyn Sweeney (13.4 ppg), have been up and down thus far but have struggled of late having lost six of their last seven and are currently 5-7 on the year. That said, it would be a major mistake for the Cardinals to take tonight’s matchup lightly, particularly as they look to set the tone for the balance of their 2012-2013 campaign.
“What we do know is that Norwich is a solid, well-coached, guard-oriented team,” said Cole. “They have a couple of scorers (referring to Curry and Sweeney) that like to shoot the ball quickly and it will be up to us to limit their touches and defend the perimeter. Best I can tell, they like to play uptempo and so do we, at both ends. We’re expecting a very tough, competive game. It should be a fun game to watch.”