Basketball Brings the Heat

Third-year forward Matt Devine has been a key player for the Hawks this season.
Third-year forward Matt Devine has been a key player for the Hawks this season.

SUNY New Paltz’s Men’s Basketball team has started their season with mixed results.

The Hawks won their 2011-12 season home opener with a score of 83-70 against cross-river rival Vassar College in a non-conference game. They are currently 3-4 on the season, with a 2-1 home record and 1-1 SUNYAC record.

Third-year forward Matt Devine netted a career-high for points during a single game against Mount Saint Mary College with 31. For his contributions during the game, Devine was selected to the Scoutware/ Team of the Week for the week ending Nov. 27.

Devine credited his teammates for his accolades and said they were responsible for, “getting me open and drawing their defenders away.”

Even with individual players seeing success, Head Coach Mike Rejniak said  his team can do a “better job defensively” and he hopes  his “players “become more comfortable to make mistakes as a part of the learning process.”

Rejniak said he is proud of the way fourth-year guard/forward Harris Wichard, third-year  guard Nick Taldi and Devine have “stepped up” scoring-wise and  how Devine  has earned SUNYAC player of the week this season.

Despite early success, the team has also seen upset. During the Radisson Invitational, the Hawks won the first game against Centenary College but fell to the University of Scranton in the championship round.

“Scranton was a tough team that had tons of confidence, very conditioned team, and great execution,” Rejniak said. “But these are the teams that will make us a better team as a whole and  we won’t achieve this  by ‘playing cupcakes.’”

Defense, Rejniak said, is a key factor to the team’s success. He said the team needs to improve on, “valuing the basketball and limiting turnovers and not allowing the team to gain points through easy buckets.”

After the Radisson invitational, the team bounced back with victories against Vassar College and SUNY Fredonia. The Hawks led the Fredonia Blue Devils to their first loss of their 2011-2012 season with Wichard, Taldi, Devine and fourth-year center Daniel Olsen leading the way to a 75-58 result.

The team has dealt with their share of competition over the past week, hosting No. 16 Buffalo State on Dec. 3  at the Hawk Center and losing 89-83.

The Hawks knocked down 25 of 31 free throws in the first half alone. However, the Hawks were out-rebounded by the Bengals 49-45 and turned the ball over 21 times to the Bengals’ 14. The Bengals also totaled seven blocks as a team to gain the advantage over the Hawks.

Returning to the second half, the Bengals went on a 7-0 run and 9:17 into the second half Buffalo State had their first double digit lead. The Hawks fought to regain control and came out of the game with a low point margin between them and Buffalo State.

Coming into the season,  concerns were raised about the team’s current 11-man roster. While having a smaller roster than what is considered normal, Rejniak and fourth-year Captain Shalik Jenkins are not worried.

“We just have to be better conditioned, which we are,” Jenkins said. “This allowed the entire team to be able to be worked into the rotation and everyone will be able to contribute to all our wins and successes.”

Jenkins said the Hawks can improve on playing as “a team,” and get used to the “new culture” brought on by in Rejniak.

The Hawks will continue competition on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at the Hawk Center against Montclair State University. Their last game of the year will be Dec. 10 against SUNYAC rival SUNY Oneonta.