For the second straight year, SUNY Plattsburgh bounced the Hawks from the SUNYAC tournament in the quarterfinals by a score of 72-57.
Sixth seeded New Paltz took a 41-34 lead into halftime, but was unable to keep up the momentum as Plattsburgh rallied in the second half.
After an impressive first half, the Hawks’ shooting went cold in the second frame. They only shot 21.4 percent in the second half including 1-12 from beyond the arc. An 11-0 run by Plattsburgh early in the second half helped turn the tables for the Cardinals and they controlled the game the rest of the way.
Head Coach Dagan Nelson called the game a “tale of two halves.” He said his team played one of the best first halves of their season, but became complacent in the second half.
“We took bad shots and had bad possessions. We put too much pressure on the defense. We need to learn to play 40 minutes instead of 20,” Nelson said.
“We had a game plan to go in there and put them on their heels and we did that for the first half… They went to the zone in the second half and we were passive and they put us on our heels. We weren’t executing our zone offense and that hurt us,” said third-year guard Harris Wichard.
This loss capped a seven-game losing streak for the Hawks to close out the season.
“It’s disappointing. Seven losses in a row especially when you are able to make the playoffs and know what you’re capable of doing. It’s sad is really what it is because of how good we are,” center Daniel Olsen said.
He went on to say the team lost the ability to put two good halves together late in the season.
“When you play college basketball, at any level, you’ve gotta play ball for 40 minutes,” he said.
Olsen missed games early in the season after having knee surgery and says he was probably playing at about 70 percent the entire season. Nelson said that Olsen had a great season, but the injury stopped him from reaching his full potential and he is excited to see how he can play when he is at full capacity next season.
Co-Captain Matt Devine was injured in the Feb. 5 game against Buffalo State. This was the first loss of the seven-game losing streak. The players and head coach believe that not having Devine, one of the team’s top scorers, on the court made a difference down the stretch because other players put more pressure on themselves to make up for the production they lost without Devine.
The Hawks will return with all but one player next season, something that Coach Nelson is very excited about.
“They all have good game experience and plenty of chemistry and are ready to take the next step,” he said.
Nelson spoke about his displeasure with a Division III rule that prevents coaches from working with their players during the off-season. Because of this rule, the team needs to have very self-motivated players who will need to train on their own time until October. Nelson said he hopes his players work on their bodies and get bigger this offseason because they got pushed around and need to be able to finish plays with contact under the rim. For example, the seven-foot, 260-pound Olsen said he plans to weigh in at 300 pounds by next season. He says he will try to work out for six days a week. Nelson believes he has some great characters on his team and that they will keep up their routines through the offseason.
Wichard says his routine is all about consistency during the off-season. His motivation comes from a strong craving to win. He is very confident in his team going into next year.
“I believe this is our conference next year and if everyone believes that and we work towards it everyday, it should be one hell of a run… Very disappointing end to this year, but we will be back,” said Wichard.