PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team opens its 2013-14 SUNY Athletic Conference schedule this weekend.
And the Cardinals jump right into the fire with road contests against Oswego tonight and at defending conference champion Cortland on Saturday.
The Lakers and Red Dragons have combined for a 7-1 start to the season.
“This is a difficult weekend for us,” Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle said. “It’s a really important weekend for us because of the different level of competition.
“When you have back-to-back games on the road like this, 90 percent of your preparation goes into Friday’s game. The teams in the conference have different styles of play, and you have a short time to prepare for your Saturday opponent.”
Oswego (4-1) last played Nov. 24 in a 71-69 victory at Hartwick College.
Daniel Ross (21.0 ppg), Kyle Covley (13.8) and Brian Sortino (11.2) are the leading scorers for the Lakers. Oswego is scoring 76 points a game and allowing 69.
“They lost the conference player of the year the past two years and also their point guard from last season,” Curle said. “But, that said, they are a faster team this year and are playing real well.
“Ross is averaging 21 points a game, and they do a lot of isolation for him. Covley likes to play on the same side of the floor that Ross does, and Sortino does a good job pushing the ball up court. They like to run the floor.
“If we have an advantage, it’s that they are still developing their depth while we use our depth to our advantage. Hopefully, we can be a little fresher going to the rim. We’re also a little bigger than they are.”
The Cardinals defeated the Lakers twice last season, including a surprise 59-57 decision at Oswego in the first meeting.
“They were favored to win the conference last year,” Curle said. “Even though we lost to Cortland the next day, when we beat them down there it showed that we were going to be a playoff contender. Maybe we snuck up on them in that game.”
Cortland (3-0), meanwhile, is coming off a 79-63 win at Ithaca on Dec. 3. The Red Dragons are outscoring their opponents, 68-58, on an average and are led in scoring by Kevin McMahon (19.7) and Lamard Herron (18.0).
“McMahon is an outstanding forward who is back from last season, and Herron is a good 1-on-1 player,” Curle said.
“They will try to slow you down, not speed up the game, with their press. We have to be smart and not rush it.”
The Red Dragons and Cardinals split two regular season meetings a year ago before Cortland, playing at home, recorded a 75-61 victory in the SUNYAC Tournament title game.
Plattsburgh, however, wound up getting an at-large berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
The Cardinals are off to a 3-1 start to the season against nonconference opponents and tuned up for the weekend with a 109-76 thrashing of Keene State at Memorial Hall on Tuesday.
“It’s better to be 3-1 and not 1-3,” Curle said. “But we play 18 conference games, which are the most important games for us, and we’re 0-0 right now. The conference is going to be really challenging because we’re going to get people’s best efforts against us this year. We’re considered one of the top teams.
“We do share the basketball well and have the right guys taking the 3-point shots. We have four or five guys who can lead us in scoring on a given night. But we need to focus on taking care of the basketball and getting a good shot.”