AMHERST, Mass. — Tom Curle wants his young Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team to continue to get better and strive for a certain level.
The Cardinals saw that level Saturday afternoon.
No. 2-ranked Amherst College poured it on early and settled for an 89-72 victory over the Cardinals during second-round play in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“We ran into a better team today,” Curle said. “All you have to do is look at the rebounding where they had a 49-28 edge.
“You could tell they’ve been to the tournament before and that this was the first time for our players. For us to be at this level, we have to work on our preparation, especially in the offseason.”
Aaron Toomey poured in a game-high 25 points for the Lord Jeffs (26-2), including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. Allen Williamson added 16 points and 11 rebounds, David Kalema 15 points off the bench and Willy Workman, 11 points.
Ezra Hodgson paced the Cardinals (20-9) with 14 points, followed by Shavar Fields and Edward Correau, both off the bench, with 13. Jordan Moody finished with 11 points and Reggie Williams, 10.
Chris Manning dished out seven assists for Plattsburgh and Moody added a team-high four steals.
Moody hit two free throws to give the Cardinals an early 8-7 lead.
But Amherst then went on an 11-0 run to grab an 18-8 lead and then went on another 13-0 burst that included a trio of 3-pointers on the way to a 37-15 advantage.
The Lord Jeffs led by as many as 26 points before the Cardinals rallied near the end of the opening half to cut their deficit to 50-37 after 20 minutes.
Amherst shot 55.9 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. Those statistics were even better before the Lord Jeffs went a little cold late in the stanza.
Plattsburgh did everything it could to try to slow down Amherst, including a press.
“They have some shooters,” Curle said. “We have some quickness, so we went to a press. But we ran out of bullets.”
Hodgson’s 3-pointer to open the second half brought Plattsburgh to within, 50-40. Another Hodgson 3-pointer pulled the Cardinals back to within 10 later in the half, at 57-47.
But that would be as close as Plattsburgh would get.
Amherst scored 15 of the next 17 points to open up a 72-49 advantage. Plattsburgh did get it to 79-65 only to have the Lord Jeffs answer the final challenge.
“I was surprised with how strong they were physically,” Curle said. “They were able to push us around a little bit and that hasn’t happened to us very often.
“We knew they were athletic and they’re a great team. We fought hard and competed. But I didn’t think it was our best effort today.”
Amherst finished with 16 offensive rebounds as compared to eight for Plattsburgh.
“My mindset going into the game was not to have anyone outrebound me,” Williams said. “It didn’t work out that well at the start, but it was better after I became more comfortable out there.”
The Cardinals shot 39.4 percent from the field, 38.5 from beyond the arc and 90.9 percent (10-of-11) from the foul line.
Plattsburgh did force Amherst into 19 turnovers while recording 17 steals. The Cardinals, meanwhle turned the ball over 12 times.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals ended the season by winning 20 games for the fourth time in program history and the future looks bright with no seniors on the team.
“We were 8-18 last year and had a high turnaround this year with a 20-9 record,” Hodgson said. “I’m blessed to play with a great bunch of players.
“I’m not happy with the way the season ended, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. We will have a lot of motivation next season and will work very hard. I’m excited about the future.”
“I told the players at the end of the game how proud I was with them,” Curle said. “I’ve been in this for 25 years and it’s rewarding to see young players grow.
“We’re still making some mistakes, but we’re getting better at that. We’ve matured as a team and we’re learning how to compete and to grow. But we can’t let it slip.”
Manning 0-0-0, McIntosh 1-1-3, Williams 4-2-10, Moody 4-2-11, Hodgson 5-0-14, Mitchell 1-1-3, Outlaw 0-0-0, Tibbs 0-0-0, Fields 4-5-13, Baker 0-0-0, Parker 1-0-3, Correa 5-0-13, Siergiej 1-0-2. Totals: 26-10-72.
Workman 3-4-11, Toomey 7-5-25, Williamson 7-1-16, Killian 2-0-5, Kaasila 3-1-7, Gach 0-0-0, Kalema 6-0-15, Green 1-1-4, Pollack 3-0-7, Mussachia 0-0-0, Levine 0-0-0, Sanderson 0-0-0. Totals: 32-12-89.
Halftime: Amherst, 50-37.
3-point goals: Plattsburgh (10): Hodgson 4; Correa 3; Moody; Mitchell; Parker. Amherst (13): Toomey 6; Kalema 3; Workman; Williamson; Killian; Green.