By JOHN CORYER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Opportunity comes knocking for the Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team this weekend.
The Cardinals (12-6, 8-3), who currently stand third in the SUNY Athletic Conference standings, play their final two conference road games tonight at Oneonta and Saturday at New Paltz.
“This is a crucial opportunity for us,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “We’ve split every road trip we’ve had in the conference so far. But if we want to make a run at finishing in one of the two top spots in the conference, we need both wins this weekend.”
Following the weekend, Plattsburgh has five home conference games remaining on the schedule.
Both the Red Dragons (2-16, 1-10) and Hawks (6-12, 4-7) have already lost to the Cardinals earlier in the season at Memorial Hall. New Paltz dropped a 75-70 decision on Jan. 18, and Oneonta fell by an 82-75 score the following day.
Plattsburgh didn’t play to its potential in either game but still came away with victories. The Cardinals will have to be better on the road.
“No question, we have to play better than we did against them the first time,” Curle said. “But I think we’re playing better now.
“The attitude on the team is really strong right now, and we’ve been practicing hard. I think the players understand the stakes and know we can make good things happen if we continue to win.”
Oneonta last played on Tuesday with a 69-66 nonleague setback at Hamilton. The Red Dragons’ Zach Mager is sixth in the conference in scoring, averaging 18.4 points a game.
“Mager scored 26 points against us last time,” Curle said. “You don’t want to put him on the foul line because he’s shooting 88 percent from the line.
“Their record doesn’t show it, but they’ve been playing tough basketball of late. They have a win over Oswego, and they’re capable of breaking out against someone. We’re hoping it’s not us.”
New Paltz, meanwhile, had a difficult time on the road last weekend, dropping a 76-61 contest at Geneseo and then a 93-70 encounter at Brockport.
The Hawks have two potent scorers in Matt Devine, who is tied for second in the conference with a 20.6 scoring average, and Shereef Taylor, who is seventh at 18.2 per game.
“Devine and Taylor are two seniors who have both scored over 1,000 points in their careers,” Curle said. “They’re two of the best scorers in the conference.”
The Cardinals split two conference games on the road last weekend, including a tough 93-89 overtime loss at Buffalo State before rolling to a 72-47 decision the following day at Fredonia.
Plattsburgh has won five of its last six games.
“We have to keep taking care of business,” Curle said.