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February 9, 2011

 

Dragons romp into 2nd place

Overcome absence of top scorer

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Having already started this second place basketball showdown with leading scorer and starting point guard Brittany Cohen out of action with a stomach flu, things didn’t get better for the SUNY Cortland women.
A mere nine seconds into Tuesday night’s hosting of tenacious New Paltz, starting senior forward Jennifer Patten had to be tended to after injuring her ankle away from a midcourt scramble. She eventually limped off the floor for medical attention.
But that’s about all that went wrong for the Red Dragons, who were more than able to shrug off any adversity.
Cortland erupted to score the game’s first 13 points, had six different players contribute to building a 16-3 lead over the opening five minutes — capped by a 3-point shot by a re-taped Patten after she re-entered the fray — and the went on to grab sole possession of second place in the SUNY Athletic Conference standings with a resounding 85-51 victory.
The Red Dragons are now 10-3 in conference play, 15-4 overall and unbeaten this season on their Corey Gymnasium home floor. They also avenged a 59-54 loss at New Paltz suffered back on Jan. 11.
With Cohen an out-of-uniform spectator on the bench, all five Cortland starters scored in double figures to pick up the slack. Junior Molly Byrne led the way with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while senior Jen Polan stepped into a Cohen’s starting role and delivered 16 points and eight assists.
And when Mary Bruns took over when Patten went down, she scored the game’s first basket on a baseline shot, grabbed a defensive rebound at the other end of the floor and Cortland was on its way.
“My thing was, better now than two weeks from now,” said Red Dragons coach Jeannette Mosher of having to play without sparkplug Cohen, the junior out of Jamesville-DeWitt who averages 14.8 points and six assists per contest.
“The stomach bug is going around and she just caught it at the wrong time,” the coach added. “I thought this was going to be a good opportunity for some other people to have to step up and do some other things out there, and sure enough it happened. We needed that.”
Patten finished with 14 points, junior forward Micki Volpini had 11 points and seven steals and junior center Megan Maycumber tacked on 10 points as Cortland shot 50 percent from the floor. The Red Dragons impressively had assists on 23 of their 27 made baskets, too.
OF COURSE, NEW PALTZ’S wayward shooting touch helped out. The Hawks wasted a decisive 53-36 advantage off the backboards — including hustling to 32 offensive rebounds — by making just 17-of-72 shots.
“Really, they just kind of took us behind the woodshed and really took it took us literally from start to finish,” said New Paltz coach James Seward, his Hawks now 10-4 in the conference and 12-9 overall. “They out-played us for all 40 minutes and you have to give them credit for that.”
Sophomore Alex McCullough was the lone double digit scorer for New Paltz with 10 points. The other four starters combined for 11 points as the Hawks suffered a second straight conference loss, having seen a five-game winning streak stopped by Buffalo State last weekend.
New Paltz did get within 27-22 after Cortland’s great start, causing Coach Mosher to call a time-out with 8:24 left in the opening half. The Red Dragons responded to the challenge, and by half-time built a 49-31 advantage that was never threatened after intermission.
“We were nervous coming into the game,” said Byrne of having to play without Cohen, who was also her teammate for an Onondaga Community College team that went to the national finals a year ago. “She handles the ball a lot for us, but we knew Jen Polan was going to pick up some of the ball handling and we’d have to play hard to get the win.”
Polan logged 36 minutes of court time, and though the Red Dragons did have 23 turnovers they also got a lot of good looks on the fast break and out of their offensive sets. That included some nifty backdoor cuts that led to Patten baskets off Polan and Byrne feeds.
“It was definitely a bit of a change, but I was willing to step up for the team,” said Polan of her extra work load that also including making four shots from beyond the 3-point arc. “Everyone came out intense. It was such a difference from the first time we played them. Everyone came out in attack mode.”
Having New Paltz struggle against Cortland’s zone defense helped out.
“Because we held them to 51 points, and they had trouble scoring, we were able to get the ball out and go,” said Coach Mosher. “We scored some easy baskets, and that’s always key for us. You’re going to get some assists when that happens. Again, that’s just being in attack mode. If you don’t want to be pressure you have to attack, and that was the whole thing.”
AFTER A TRIP north to face Potsdam Friday and Plattsburgh Saturday, the Red Dragons close the regular season with home games against third place Oneonta, first place Geneseo and Brockport. They hope those games will provide a chance to climb back atop the standings before the defending champions head into the playoffs.
Cortland is a perfect 8-0 at Corey Gymnasium this winter. Since Mosher took over in the 1998-99 season, the Red Dragons have won 143 of 161 home contests.
The romp past New Paltz is part of a current four-game Red Dragons winning streak where they’ve scored 86, 80, 68 and 85 points.
“It shows that if we work hard we can win, and hopefully it will pay off in the playoffs,” said Byrne of the importance of clipping the Hawks.
“Each game and every practice we’re working on getting better,” said Polan. “I feel like team chemistry has improved a lot just from playing with each other, coming in with so many new girls. Winter sessions, going double sessions, helped with that. And just our focus, our focus is a lot better.”

 

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