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December 5, 2009

 

Red Dragons on fire early

Surge to 38-point halftime lead in romp over Knights

Basketball

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Ron Evans of SUNY Cortland, right, looks to pass the ball while guarded by Jordan Bliar of Geneseo in Friday’s conference opener at Corey Gymnasium. Evans had six points in 77-56 Red Dragons romp.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

When a last-second fling by SUNY Cortland freshman point guard Jesse Winter banked into the basket to close out the opening half, nobody seemed all that surprised.
Everything else seemed to be working for the Red Dragons over the opening 20 minutes of Friday’s SUNY Athletic Conference men’s basketball opener against visiting Geneseo at Corey Gymnasium. The Winter basket just capped a stretch of stunning success.
That shot put the finishing touches on a dominating first half that saw the Red Dragons roll to a 52-14 lead, which enabled the hosts to survive some second half struggles in what turned into a still comfy 77-56 victory.
In that opening half the Red Dragons made a dozen 3-pointers, shot 67 percent from the floor, assisted on 15 of their 18 baskets and held the Blue Knights to just six points over the opening 15-plus minutes.
“Perimeter guys were knocking down shots, big men were getting easy baskets at our end, we were rebounding and playing team defense,” said junior Dustin Marshall, who came off the bench to score 22 points, grab seven rebounds and come up with four steals as the Red Dragons improved to 3-2 overall. “Their shooting percentage was pretty low, so that helped.”
And told of the Red Dragon assist total, the Newfield High grad added: “It goes to show you playing as a team it’s a lot easier.”
Winless Geneseo (0-3) made just 6-of-33 shots to help create that 38-point halftime deficit, including a goose egg from 3-point range.
Starting from the opening possession where some crisp pass work led to lay-up inside by senior center Paul Oliver, the Red Dragons were in control.
Freshman Jeff LaMont and Marshall had a couple of early treys to get the offense going. Sophomore Brian Manning came off the bench and scored 11 of his career high 13 points during the opening half including a top of the key 3-pointer that opened up a 25-2 lead just nine minutes into the game.
With just under four minutes to go in the half, Winter meshed a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down and the Red Dragons bulge was at 38-6.
In the final seconds of the half, LaMont landed a trey from the corner and Winter made his late shot in transition from over 30 feet out to complete the first half damage.
“EVERYTHING CAME so easy to us in the first half, so I think we came out and it appeared we had the mentality it was going to be another easy half,” said Cortland coach Tom Spanbauer. “So obviously credit Geneseo. They showed a lot of pride and came out and they played at a higher level than we did in the second half for a majority of it. They won every 50-50 ball and they really out-rebounded us and those were all effort things.”
Geneseo scored 17 unanswered points to open the second half, Cortland’s first basket not coming until 14:54 was left to play when Marshall converted a lob pass from center Mike Lewis after shaking free with a backdoor cut. Marshall had 13 of his 22 points in the second half to prevent Geneseo from making a momentous comeback, and made 9-of-12 shots including some nifty drives to the rim.
The closest Geneseo would get would be within 69-51 with just over five minutes left to play.
“We just came out a little lackadaisical and we came out not with the same intensity, the same fire,” noted Marshall. “We just had to make sure we ended up finding that and coming together as a team.”
Four Red Dragons finished in double figures scoring, Marshall and Manning providing big lifts off the bench. LaMont finished with 16 and Winter 11, though both rookies just had a single basket apiece in the second half.
Back-up Geneseo big men John Drazan and Abe Miller led the second half revival, the 6-foot-8 Drazan finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds while the 6-foot-6 Miller worked inside for 13 points.
The Blue Knights never warmed up from 3-point range, finishing just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“Anytime you’re up by that much you anticipate a little bit of a let down,” said Spanbauer, Geneseo scoring 42 points in the second half.
“FIRST OFF, YOU can’t shoot the ball as well as we shot it for 40 minutes from the arc. It’s just not going to happen,” added Spanbauer. “The disappointing thing with the letdown is coming out and letting them score so easily and then basically not getting anything going on offense, meaning we lacked execution.”
But the first half showed signs of what Cortland is capable of doing, which the Red Dragons hope carries over into this afternoon’s 4 p.m. hosting of defending champion Brockport.
“Guys were making some really good decisions offensively in the first half,” said Spanbauer. “We had that balance, being aggressive, attacking and then executing our passes with some good decision making. And then, of course, finishing by making shots, and of course the 3-point shots, and that’s a deadly combination. We just have to be a little better defensively when a team is really coming at us.”