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February 6, 2012

 

First place Lakers shoot down Red Dragons

LakersRich Barnes/contributing photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Brian Manning gets ready to shoot against Oswego’s Chris Gilkes (left) during Saturday’s court clash of conference contenders. Though Manning scored 11 points, first place Oswego was an 84-65 victor at Corey Gymnasium.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

To the chagrin of the SUNY Cortland men’s basketball team, this longed for rematch quickly turned into a mismatch.
The Red Dragons were eager to avenge a disappointing two-point road loss to SUNY Athletic Conference unbeaten and nationally-ranked Oswego, having been done in by a last-second shot after a late nine-point lead vanished just two weekends ago on the road.
But the first place Lakers quickly made sure there would be no late drama needed on this occasion, disappointing the largest Corey Gymnasium gathering of the season with a 48-point opening half scoring barrage that ignited a lopsided 84-65 victory on Saturday afternoon.
“When you shoot the ball well, it’s the cure for all ills,” noted Cortland coach Tom Spanbauer after the visitors made 58 percent of their attempts while securing 48-33 halftime control. Not only did the Lakers make seven of their 10 shots from 3-point range over those opening 20 minutes, they also made Cortland pay for getting into some early foul trouble by sinking all 11 first half free throws en route to 15-of-15 perfection.
Cortland — now 9-4 in SUNYAC play and 14-6 overall — drops into third place in the conference standings as a modest three-game win was stopped.
Oswego — now 13-0 in SUNYAC play, 17-3 overall and considered the 22nd best Division III team in the nation by last week’s pollsters — took a step closer to a regular season crown and has now won 27 consecutive regular season conference contests.
Junior Brian Manning, last week’s SUNYAC Player of the Week, was the lone Cortland player to score in double figures with 11 points. The bulk of those points came from his 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. Point guard Jesse Winter finished with nine points, Harrison Hefele had seven points and six rebounds and Garen Spendjian came off the bench to toss in seven points.
Oswego’s entire starting five finished in double figures, as did reserve Ryan Sheridan with 10 points. Team scoring leader Chad Burridge led the way with 18 points, the 6-foot-7 senior forward out of Hannibal also with six rebounds and five blocked shots.
Forward Hayden Ward, who made the buzzer-beating shot that nipped Cortland 69-67 back on Jan. 21, finished with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Guard Sean Michele had 12 points, guard Conor Monaghan 11 and forward Chris Gilkes 10 — Michele a 4-for-5 sharpshooter of timely treys.
“TO BE FAIR TO Cortland, we shot the ball really well today. That score is not indicative of the two teams and how we match up,” said first-year Oswego head coach Jason Leone after his team made 29 of 56 shots. And that accuracy included a second half dry spell when Laker back-ups went scoreless for a six-minute stretch after the lead swelled to 75-42.
“Cortland’s a great team. They’re very well coached and I have a tremendous among of respect for Coach Spanbauer,” added Leone, a former Syracuse CBA high school player whose brother played for the Lakers. “We just had one of those games where we shot the ball well. I don’t even think we missed a free throw, either. That kind of skewed the whole game. It wasn’t necessarily that someone played well, we just shot the ball very well.”
Coach Spanbauer called Cortland’s failure to convert some easy early shots while Oswego was shooting lights out “a lethal combination,” and felt Cortland’s defense was lacking.
“Not only did we not match the level of speed of the game they were playing at, we also weren’t doing the IQ things we needed to do to execute the defenses we were playing,” said Spanbauer.
“We just let them get too comfortable,” he added. “Granted, credit Oswego because they shot the ball super well, but they were comfortable. And that was an indication that we did nothing to take them out of their comfort zone, which is something we have to address.”
Cortland trailed from the start, an early 5-5 deadlock the lone tie of the game. A tough Winter shot in traffic had Cortland within 32-22, only to have Oswego’s Sheridan beat the Cortland defense down the floor for a quick answering lay-up followed by eight consecutive free throws that bulged the lead to 20 points.
MANNING DRILLED back-to-back treys and Hefele made a 3-pointer and finished off a drive to get Cortland within 45-33 late in the opening half, only to have Michele drain a contested 3-pointer in the final seconds.
A Hefele lay-up and Winter 3-pointer from the corner to open the second half pulled Cortland closer at 48-38, Coach Leone calling for a time-out a minute and 50 seconds into the stanza. Oswego responded to the challenge with decisive 21-2 run, capped by a Gilkes wide-open 3-pointer midway through the period.
“There’s not a big gap between the teams in the conference, especially at the top of the conference, so we know there’s a long ways to go,” said Coach Leone, his Lakers with a three-game edge on second place Buffalo State heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. “So I’m just proud of our guys because I think Cortland is a good basketball team and anytime you win on the road in the conference it shows you’ve got some good character.”
Cortland hopes to show that this weekend, traveling to New Paltz Friday and Oneonta on Saturday.
“They’re going to win the league,” said Spanbauer of Oswego. “That’s the standard and our guys know that and we’ve got a few weeks to get there. Our guys will work hard and try to get back to some things and try to be better next time if we hopefully get another chance to play them.”

 

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