College Sports

November 30, 2012

Cardinals open SUNYAC hoops season with big test

PLATTSBURGH — It’s sometimes better to test the water before jumping in.

That won’t be the case, however, for the Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team this weekend.

The Cardinals (3-1) open their SUNY Athletic Conference regular season with arguably their most difficult road trip of the year in league play tonight at Oswego and on Saturday at Cortland.

The Lakers and Red Dragons, expected to be major forces in the conference this season, are both 3-0 against nonconference foes.

The Cardinals went a combined 0-5 against the two teams last year, losing to Cortland in the SUNYAC Tournament.

“It’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “No question, this is our most difficult road trip. But we have to play everyone on the road and everyone at home at some point.

“We’ve played some tough competition against Middlebury and St. Lawrence, and that should help us be prepared for league play.”

Oswego has recorded victories over D’Youville (122-72) and Morrisville (83-59) in its own tournament and most recently at Cobleskill (80-70).

Hayden Ward (19 points per game), Daniel Ross (13) and Kyle Covley (12) are averaging in double figures for the Lakers. Ward was a First-Team All-SUNYAC selection a year ago.

Cortland, meanwhile, has wins at Elmira (63-60) and at Utica (97-84) and against Ithaca (84-67) at home. Four Red Dragons are averaging in double figures — Jeremy Smith (17.7), Jesse Winter (16), Brian Manning (14.3) and Harrison Hefele (12.7). Winter was a First-Team All-SUNYAC performer last season, and Manning was selected to the Third Team.

“Both teams bring back a lot of players from last year — Cortland brings back just about its entire team,” Curle said. “They both have good size and can hit the three. Cortland does a good job setting up its threes. Both are very athletic.

“This is where you hope your depth will come into play. But conference teams want to protect their home floor. I have confidence that we are an improved team this year, and we will see how much we’ve improved this weekend.”

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