---- — OSWEGO — Tom Curle expects his young Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team to be improved this season.
The Cardinals showed some of that improvement by opening their SUNY Athletic Conference regular season with a huge 59-57 victory at Oswego Friday night.
Plattsburgh, which is at unbeaten Cortland (4-0, 1-0) today at 4 p.m., improved to 4-1 overall while Oswego fell to 3-1.
“I’m really happy because we dug down and took it to another level,” said Curle.
“It’s a very big win for us to start out the year. But we’re going to have 17 more games like this because it’s the nature of the conference. Every win on the road is very valuable.”
The Cardinals were up by as many as seven points, 55-48, in the second half.
Oswego sliced into the Plattsburgh lead before John Perez hit 1-of-2 from the line to give the Cardinals a 58-54 edge with 26 seconds remaining.
But Chris Gilkes converted a three-point play with eight seconds left to pull Oswego to within one, at 58-57.
Kalik Parker was then fouled and hit the second of two free throws to give the Cardinals a 59-57 advantage with four ticks remaining.
The Lakers had one last opportunity, but Hayden Ward missed a shot as time expired.
“We started to knock some shots down in the second half,” said Curle. “The conference is good and this is what the conference is about. Even at the end, we won it with hustle plays.
“Still, we didn’t make all the composure plays. It’s a very good win for us, but we have to see where we could have done better, like hitting free throws or boxing out better.”
The Cardinals, despite missing some early layups, jumped out to a 17-10 first-half lead but went cold from the field later in the stanza and found themselves down, 28-22, after 20 minutes before rallying.
“You tell the players that they have to play with passion, drive and desire,” said Curle. “If you don’t, you’re no good as a team.
“We let our passion and composure get away in the first half and that was a driving force for us going into halftime. We needed to play with the same kind of intensity, but with more composure.”
Perez led Plattsburgh with 14 points and Chris Manning added 10. Perez added a team-high nine rebounds and Manning a team-high four assists.
The Cardinals overcame a 25-point, 10-rebound performance by Ward. Gilkes was next with 16 points.
Neither team shot the ball all that well.
The Cardinals were 37.7 percent from the field, 29.4 percent from 3-point range and 66.7 percent from the foul line.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Curle.
The Lakers, meanwhile, went 35.2 percent from the floor, 17.6 percent from beyond the arc and 72.7 percent from the charity stripe.
Cortland had an easier time than the Cardinals did on Friday as it rolled to a 86-59 win over Potsdam.
Plattsburgh 59, Oswego 57
Perez 6-2-14, Manning 2-5-10, Correa 2-0-6, Hodgson 2-1-6, Tibbs 2-1-5, McIntosh 1-4-6, Fields 3-0-6, Mitchell 1-0-3, Moody 1-0-2, Parker 0-1-1, Baker 0-0-0, O’Shea 0-0-0, Siergiej 0-0-0. Totals: 20-14-59.
Ward 10-4-25, Gilkes 6-3-16, Michele 2-4-9, Nollet 0-2-2, Mirabito 0-0-0, Ross 1-2-4, McLaurin 0-1-1, Haight 0-0-0, Covley 0-0-0, Rawa 0-0-0, Powell 0-0-0. Totals: 19-16-57.
Halftime: Oswego 28, Plattsburgh 22.
3-point goals: Plattsburgh (5): Correa 2; Manning; Hodgson; Mitchell. Oswego (3): Ward; Gilkes; Michele.