PLATTSBURGH — The effort was certainly there.
The Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team, however, came up a little short Sunday against the No. 4-ranked team in Division III.
Middlebury College recorded an 80-73 victory at Memorial Hall in a game closer than the final score would indicate.
“Everybody’s good until it’s time to be great,” said Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle. “It’s not good enough to just be in the game.
“We were so emotionally charged up that we made some mental and physical mistakes near the end. We wanted to win so badly.”
The unbeaten Panthers (4-0) sealed the win from the foul line, hitting on 19 of 23 shots from the charity stripe in all.
“We competed well — we put ourselves in a position to win,” said Curle. “I wasn’t unhappy with our effort — I loved the effort.
“But we have to do those one or two things at the end of games that help you win. We have to find a way to win games like this and make the right decisions. We’re going to play a lot of games like this one.
“But if we continue to work hard in practice and also on our conditioning, we can be as good as anyone.”
The Cardinals (2-1) held a slim lead for most of the first half and took a 29-24 advantage into halftime.
Two baskets each from Gary Tibbs and John Perez to open the second half helped give Plattsburgh a nine-point lead, at 37-28.
But Nolan Thompson, who scored a game-high 23 points, ignited a Middlebury rally with the Panthers scoring 11 of the next 12 points for a 39-38 lead. It was the first time the Panthers led since it was 14-12.
The game went back and forth after that until the Panthers took a 69-62 advantage with 2:18 left.
Plattsburgh did get it back to within three, at 74-71, when Tibbs put in a rebound with less than a minute to go. But that would be as close as the Cardinals would get. It was a five-point game when Joey Kizel hit two from the line with .5 seconds left.
Peter Lynch was a factor inside, especially down the stretch, for the Panthers as he tossed in 19 points, including six-of-eight from the field and seven-of-eight from the foul line.
“What upset me the most was when they got the basketball in the post late in the game, we weren’t tough enough,” said Curle. “We didn’t make a stand down low. That’s the second time already this year that a post player has hit a high percentage against us.”
The two teams combined for 100 points in the second half after the Cardinals stood their ground over the first 20 minutes with a five-point advantage.
Kizel was a third Middlebury player in double figures with 13 points. Thompson, in addition to his 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds.
The Cardinals went 12 players deep and had a balanced scoring effort. Shavar Fields led the way with 11 points, while Shamoy McIntosh and Ezra Hodgson each added 10. Tibbs, Chris Manning and Perez all chipped in with eight.
Tibbs paced Plattsburgh with six rebounds and added a team-high three steals, along with Manning.
“Manning played well for us with eight points, six assists and three steals,” said Curle. “And Tibbs gave us some energy.
“We shot 48 percent from the field, 37 percent from three-point range and 92 percent from the line (12-of-13). That’s not bad. But we had 25 fouls and they had 15. They took 23 free throws and we took 13.”
The Cardinals don’t have much time to rest up following Sunday’s showdown. Plattsburgh is in Canton on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. non-conference game against St. Lawrence University.
Middlebury 80, Plattsburgh 73
Wolfin 2-0-5, Kizel 4-4-13, Thompson 8-4-23, Lynch 6-7-19, Roberts 1-0-2, Brierley 0-0-0, Bulluck 1-4-7, Merryman 2-0-5, Jensen 3-0-6. Totals: 27-19-80.
Manning 4-0-8, McIntosh 2-4-10, Perez 3-2-8, Tibbs 4-0-8, Hodgson 4-0-10, Mitchell 2-0-5, Williams 1-0-2, Fields 3-5-11, Moody 1-1-3, Parker 1-0-3, O’Shea 1-0-2, Correa 1-0-3. Totals: 27-12-73.
3-point goals: Middlebury (7): Thompson 3; Wolfin; Kizel; Bulluck, Merryman. Plattsburgh (7): McIntosh 2; Hodgson 2; Mitchell, Parker, Correa.
Halftime: Plattsburgh, 29-24.