PLATTSBURGH — Three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the SUNY Athletic Conference men’s basketball standings.
Plattsburgh State is one of those teams.
Brockport (9-0 in the conference), Geneseo (8-1) and the Cardinals (7-2) lead the way at the halfway point of the SUNYAC regular-season schedule.
No other team is over .500, although there are four teams at the .500 mark.
The Cardinals, who are 13-3 overall, hope to build on that separation with two home games at Memorial Hall this weekend tonight at 8 p.m. against Oneonta (8-9, 5-5) and Saturday at 4 p.m. versus New Paltz (6-11, 3-7).
“There’s a little bit of a dogfight going on right now for fourth, fifth and sixth place,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “However, the teams battling for those spots can sneak up on us if we don’t continue to play well.
“We don’t want to slip up, so we have to work doubly hard to keep that separation.”
Elsewhere, something has to give at the top of the standings this weekend when Brockport hosts Geneseo. The two have played half their SUNYAC schedule but haven’t met yet this season.
Plattsburgh, which plays six of its final nine conference games at home, is coming off a successful 2-0 weekend on the road, including an 87-83 victory at Buffalo State and a 77-42 decision at Fredonia.
The Cardinals have four players averaging in double figures, and Alan Siergiej became the eighth Plattsburgh player to lead the team in scoring in a game this season when he tallied 14 points in the win over the Blue Devils.
Plattsburgh also has the luxury of being at home with the college back in session.
“No doubt, a packed gym would be a benefit for us,” Curle said. “We play hard and we’re exciting to watch. I hope the community will come out to support us and watch us play.”
Oneonta (8-9, 5-5) was 5-1 in the conference not long ago, but an 84-73 home loss to Plattsburgh on Jan. 18 has put the Red Dragons into a downward spiral.
Oneonta has dropped four conference games in a row, but one of those was a very tough 81-79 setback to SUNYAC-leading Brockport.
Zach Mager (21.4 points), Mikey McElroy (13.9) and Jackson Zuvic (10.6) are the Red Dragons’ leading scorers.
“Oneonta is a very good shooting team that is averaging 40 percent from 3-point range,” Curle said. “They’ve made 135 3-pointers, and that’s an impressive stat. Their forwards can step out and hit threes.
“Some of their 3-pointers come from way past the line. They don’t score as much on the inside, but any time a team shoots that well from the outside, they’re dangerous and you have to defend the line.
“They will also get to the foul line a lot, and Mager is a crafty player who will take advantage. They’ve lost four games in a row, which makes them a dangerous team coming in because they are a good team.”
Curle hopes the Red Dragons will have their problems stopping the Cardinals.
“We have a lot of weapons ourselves, and we’re not easy to guard,” Curle said. “The key for us will be how well we defend and rebound.
“There’s still a lot that can still happen in the conference. But our first worry is Oneonta.”
Meanwhile, New Paltz (6-11, 3-7), which is in Potsdam tonight, dropped a 95-81 home decision to Plattsburgh on Jan. 17.
Last weekend at home, the Hawks were on the verge of an upset before falling 92-82 to Geneseo in overtime. The following night, New Paltz was again competitive in a 78-69 setback to Brockport.
Taylor Sowah (15.7) and Nick Taldi (10.4) lead a balanced New Paltz team in scoring.
“New Paltz plays intense defense and will double the post,” Curle said. “Offensively, they get to the rim, and we had trouble stopping them the last time.
“They’ve been in every game and had Geneseo. They just haven’t had quite enough to finish off games.”