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December 19, 2011

 

Record setting Dragons romp

BasketballBob Ellis/staff photographer
Jeremy Smith of SUNY Cortland puts up a shot against SUNYIT on Saturday at Corey Gym. Smith scored a team-high 17 points in the 93-63 Red Dragons romp.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

The SUNY Cortland men’s basketball team headed home for the holiday break a pretty happy bunch on Saturday afternoon.
There were smiles all around after every available player scored in a 93-63 non-conference romp past SUNYIT, as the Red Dragons also celebrated setting a single-game school record by connecting 17 times from beyond the 3-point arc on their Corey Gymnasium home floor.
More importantly, head coach Tom Spanbauer is elated with the direction his 8-2 Cortland team appears to be headed going into this respite — practice to resume on New Year’s Day with the next contest a Jan. 4 home date against Nazareth College.
“We’re really excited that we’re moving forward,” said Spanbauer, whose squad is also sitting in second place in the SUNY Athletic Conference standings with a 4-1 league record. The lone conference loss came on the road to nationally-ranked Buffalo State.
“Our chemistry is good. The guys have done a great job of working hard and committing to each other,” he added. “We just have to, once again, keep getting better. We’re a long way from where we want to be, but we’re heading that way. We’re on the road to where we want to be.”
Junior guard Jeremy Smith came off the bench to score 15 of his team-high 17 points in the opening half to ignite this victory. He made a trio of 3-pointers during that early outburst, as Cortland turned a 17-17 deadlock into a commanding 50-27 half-time lead. Back-to-back treys by Smith and senior guard Nick Sutedjo, who took Smith’s usual spot in the starting lineup, got that surge going midway through the opening stanza.
“I felt like today was our best offensive game against a zone,” said Bronx native Smith after the Red Dragons made 17 of a staggering 41 shots taken from long range against the visiting Wildcats (1-5) from Utica. “This year we’ve kind of struggled against zones, but this game we moved the ball well and we hit shots.”
Three days of preparation and film work certainly paid off, Smith also noted.
Junior point guard Jesse Winter had 14 points and eight assists, as the pass-happy Red Dragons picked up assists on 27 of the 34 baskets made in the game. “The shots came from a by-product of different things we did against their zone. We were taking a lot of jump shots, but the jump shots were coming off guys penetrating and finding people, which was really positive,” said Coach Spanbauer.
Cortland’s Brian Manning had a team-high four treys as part of his 14-point showing, while starters Sutedjo, Maurice Kearney and John Connolly joined Garen Spendjian with eight point contributions. Sutedjo, Connolly, Spendjian and Winter made a couple of 3-pointers apiece as part of Cortland’s highest offensive output this season.
THE RED DRAGONS did all of this damage with 6-foot-9 starting center Dan Sternkopf and consistent contributor Harrison Hefele unavailable. Sternkopf rolled an ankle in practice and was on crutches, while Hefele missed his fourth straight game after suffering a concussion in a win over Potsdam back on Dec. 3.
Cortland’s depth was certainly on display against SUNYIT, the hosts not skipping a beat despite missing those two key components. The Red Dragons bench out-scored the Wildcats bench by a whopping 51-4 margin, led by the sharp-shooting of Smith and Manning.
The final minute of the opening half best illustrated how Cortland was on its game.
With Coach Spanbauer calling from the bench to pull the trigger early to ensure the Red Dragons would get the final possession, Winter buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The Red Dragons then forced a turnover that led to a Winter lay-up, followed by the guard grabbing a rebound off the defensive boards and being fouled with 31 seconds left.
Able to hold for the last shot, Manning got an open look and swished his 3-pointer to finish off a 10-1 Cortland run over the final two minutes of the half.
There was little second half drama, though freshman Kahreign Joseph broke the old school record (set twice previously) with Cortland’s 16th 3-pointer with 2:48 remaining and freshman T.J. Hefele added to the mark with a trey on his first collegiate shot attempt in the final minute.Forward T’Andre Richardson had 20 points, Mexico High alum Derek Rowe 16 points and 13 rebounds and guard Sejad Gromilic 15 points for SUNYIT — who had not played in 11 days since winning a wild 102-98 shoot-out over rival Utica College. Unlike that outing, the Wildcats could not match Cortland’s offensive explosives on this occasion.
“We knew we were going to get a lot of shots against their zone and we talked about let’s shoot them when we get them, because we’re really confident that we have guys who can use the arc,” said Spanbauer. “And, obviously, Jeremy Smith coming in off the bench and getting us going on the arc, it catapulted us into getting people feeling more comfortable.”
CORTLAND IS GETTING more comfortable with each other, too.
“This was a great way to go into the break,” said Smith. “This semester has been great for the kids who played last year, to see how hard work pays off. We’ve made tremendous strides. We were all young last year, we didn’t know basically what we had to go through on a night-to-night basis in this league. This year we came out prepared, and it’s shown.”
Cortland hopes to have Sternkopf and Harrison Hefele ready to go when the season resumes in January, the Nazareth game the first of five consecutive home dates.
“It was a real good ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ game heading into the break, getting everyone some minutes,” said Spanbauer of the romp past SUNYIT.
“If we look at ourselves right now, where we are at the break, obviously being dinged with some injuries that have given some people the opportunity to step up and play, we feel like we keep moving forward,” he added. “So the guys who were able to play tonight and gobble up some minutes with Dan and Harry (Hefele) being out, they’re contributing, which is good. We’re going to need everyone at some point during the year, so it’s really important that we continue to get better top to bottom.”

 

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