By JOHN CORYER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Last season, a young and rebuilding Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team won eight games.
The players are a year older now and the Cardinals, with still half the regular season to go, matched their win total of a season ago when they prevailed 82-81 at Brockport last Saturday.
Cardinals coach Tom Curle hopes this is just the start of something bigger.
“We’re in position to control our own destiny and have a good feeling about things,” he said. “Our first goal is to make the league playoffs, which will have six teams instead of eight this year.
“We have to take care of business. It’s good that we have won as many games as we have, but it’s also important that we feel we have a chance to win every game we play. We didn’t always have that mind-set last year.”
Plattsburgh (8-5, 4-2 SUNYAC) is home this weekend at Memorial Hall for an 8 p.m. game tonight against New Paltz and a 4 p.m. contest Saturday versus Oneonta in SUNY Athletic Conference play.
Geneseo currently leads the SUNYAC race with a 6-1 mark, while Plattsburgh is one of four teams tied for second at 4-2 in what has shaped up to be a closely-contested battle for the six playoff spots.
“This is really an important weekend for us,” Curle said. “The first half of league play will be almost over after the weekend, and it will give us an indication of where we are.
“Two wins would make us 6-2, with five home games still remaining. We would look good to this point as far as making the playoffs are concerned.”
The Cardinals return home after splitting a road weekend at Geneseo and Brockport, with the combined margin of difference in the two games being three points.
Plattsburgh’s first conference weekend at home resulted in a 2-0 showing, with wins over Fredonia (72-58) on Dec. 7 and Buffalo State (93-85) the day after.
Curle is fully aware of the importance of protecting your home court.
“The best teams in the league win at home,” he said. “Nobody knows who the best teams in our league are just yet. But Geneseo is in first place and they’re 4-0 at home — they’ve protected their home court.
“Now we have an opportunity to establish that, and we want opponents to know that it will be a difficult game for them when they come to Plattsburgh.”
New Paltz (6-7, 4-2), currently one of the teams tied with the Cardinals for second place, has played some high-scoring games thus far. The Hawks are averaging 79.2 points a game and allowing 78.4.
New Paltz’s lone contest last weekend was a 79-70 victory at Oneonta.
The Hawks have two players averaging close to 20 points a game in Matt Devine (19.9) and Shereef Taylor (18.5).
“New Paltz has two outstanding senior players and scorers,” Curle said. “They’re 1,000-point scorers who have been All-Conference. They have a lot of experience.
“Devine is a forward and Taylor, who took last season off, is a guard. They run a lot of isolation plays, and those two players are tough to defend one-on-one. It will be a challenge for our players, who will need to step up.”
Oneonta (2-10, 1-5), meanwhile, didn’t get off to a good start to the season. The Red Dragons can’t be overlooked, however, as their lone conference win thus far was a 67-57 upset over a very good Oswego team that is also tied for second in the standings.
The Red Dragons play at Potsdam tonight.
Following this weekend, the Cardinals’ next five SUNYAC games will be on the road.