March 2, 2013

Cardinal cagers return to NCAA play


---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team will be looking to take advantage of its good fortune tonight at Memorial Hall.

The Cardinals, not overly surprised to be in the NCAA Division III Tournament but more surprised to be at home in the opening round, host Husson University at 7 p.m.

The Cardinals (19-8) last appeared in the NCAA Tournament during the 2009-10 season where they dropped a 71-65 home decision to SUNYIT in the opening round.

“We’re 11-1 at home with our only loss to Middlebury and we’re 7-6 on the road,” said Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle. “Any time the players came be at home and be where they are comfortable, it’s a big part of it for a young team.

“But everything from now on is a new experience for us. I really don’t now what to expect. We’ll do some things early on to try and get the players out of the box early and to become more comfortable.”

This year, Plattsburgh has won 12 of its last 15 games to earn an at-large bid to the tournament. The second-seeded Cardinals were beaten at top-seeded Cortland, 75-61, in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.

“Everyone is 0-0 now and it really doesn’t matter what you’ve done before this,” said Curle.

Shamoy McIntosh is the leading scorer for the Cardinals, averaging 12.2 points a game, while the injured John Perez is the top rebounder with 7.3 boards a contest.

Balanced scoring and a deep bench have been key to Plattsburgh’s success this season, as a number of players have stepped up at different times.

Point guard Chris Manning has team highs of 6.0 assists and 3.85 steals a game. Manning leads all of Division III in steals.

Reggie Williams, who has helped fill the void left by the Perez leg injury, has recorded 32 blocks to lead Plattsburgh in that category.

Husson (20-8) has a 7-5 road record this season and won the North Atlantic Conference Tournament championship for the third time in the past five years last Saturday.

The second-seeded Eagles posted wins over Johnson State (81-69) and Colby-Sawyer (80-70) before recording a 74-68 victory over Castleton State in the finals.

Marc Zaharchuk, a 6-10 senior center, and Eric Modica, a 6-3 senior guard, are tied for the team lead in scoring, each averaging 11.6 points a contest. Zaharchuk recently went over the 1,000-point milestone for his Husson career.

The Eagles are averaging 78.6 points a game and surrendering an average of 70.8.

“They are very big and they play predominately a man-to-man defense,” said Curle. “They also run some good offensive sets.

“They have a 6-10 kid who we will have our hands full with. They also have 6-5 and 6-4 players who are very athletic. They have some quick guards and they also play good defense. Anybody you play now is good and they fit the bill.

“They definitely have a size advantage over us, but I think we have a quickness advantage over them. They like to push the ball up the court and we don’t mind playing that kind of game.”

Curle says the Eagles can hit the three, but not like Cortland does.

“They do a great job running their sets and are able to get the ball to the rim,” he said. “They have specialized shooters. They have two or three shooters who can shoot very well from the outside.”

Husson coach Warren Caruso is in his 19th season and has a career record of 346-171.

The Cardinals and Eagles actually have one opponent in common.

Plattsburgh recorded a 70-64 victory at Keene earlier in the season, while Husson fell at home to Keene, 90-78.

“Husson won their conference and I’m sure they’re coming in here with a lot of confidence,” said Curle.

The survivor of tonight’s game advances to the second round where Amherst College (25-2) awaits.

The Lord Jeffs are ranked No. 2 in all of Division III and was the only team in its bracket to get a bye in the opening round.