PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh State men’s basketball coach Tom Curle and his staff have used their deep bench to perfection this season.
That bench strength will be tested more than ever this weekend.
The Cardinals close out their SUNY Athletic Conference regular season against conference-leading and nationally-ranked Cortland at 8 p.m. tonight and versus Oswego Saturday at Memorial Hall.
The bad news is Plattsburgh will be without standout junior forward John Perez, who is lost for the season after suffering a freak injury early in the second half of Tuesday’s 92-69 home victory over Potsdam. Perez is a team leader, as well as being second on the team in scoring and first in rebounding.
His presence will obviously be missed, and the injury couldn’t come at a worse time.
“I like the way we’re playing, but we’re going to have to do it now without John,” Curle said. “We have strength off the bench, and our bench is going to need to make an even bigger impact now. Players will need to step up even more.”
Plattsburgh (16-7, 12-4) has already clinched both a berth in the SUNYAC Tournament and a home game in the opening round should the Cardinals finish third or fourth in the standings.
The second-place Cardinals, however, need to win one of their two remaining games to finish in second and get a bye in the opening round.
It’s going to be difficult against Cortland (20-3, 14-2), which is one of the hottest teams in Division III, having won 12 games in a row.
The Red Dragons’ last three games were routs of Oneonta (84-56), Oswego (78-46) and, most recently, New Paltz (87-47) on Tuesday night.
Cortland, which recorded a 68-55 home victory over Plattsburgh on Dec. 1, has a whopping 14-point advantage in scoring differential over their opponents.
“You have to make them know that you’re going to compete against them all game long,” Curle said. “If you don’t compete against them for 40 minutes, they can make it a one-sided game.