Men’s Basketball Aims to Bounce Back

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

The Men’s Basketball team is looking to bounce back from a three game home court losing-streak last week.

The 6-11 Hawks (3-7 in conference play) couldn’t keep a lead Jan. 21, as SUNY Oswego scored 11 consecutive points to end the first half 29-26 before continuing their momentum into the second half and defeating the Hawks 64-52. The team fell to the same fate against SUNY Geneseo on Jan. 24, as the Blue Knights went on a 13-0 run with 7:57 left in the contest to force the game into overtime, ultimately winning 92-82. The next day the Hawks suffered from an array of turnovers in the second half, allowing SUNY Brockport to capitalize and turn the Hawks’ 43-36 lead at the half into a 78-69 win for the Golden Eagles.

“Last year’s team was the polar opposite in the fact that we played well at home and we started games out slow and finished strong,” Head Coach Mike Renjiak said, referring to this season’s 1-8 home record and tough time closing out teams in the second half. During the 2012-13 season, the Hawks boasted a 7-5 home record, with nine of their 11 wins on the season aided by a halftime lead.

“It could be a matter of youth being that we only have two seniors, but it’s more of a mental thing,” graduate student Captain Nick Taldi said. “We don’t know how to play with a lead and not force the issue when we’re winning. It’s frustrating, but unfortunately we’re learning the hard way.”

Rejniak agreed, and said the answer the team is looking for is not a physical one, but a mental one aimed to execute certain crunch time situations in games.

The Hawks have also been suffering from the absence of key players since their loss against SUNY Plattsburgh Jan. 17 – an influence that undeniably is taking its toll on the team, Rejniak said.

“The losses – you can get over those because as a player you deal with those. But when you lose a teammate, two teammates, it’s more demoralizing sometimes than what you anticipate,” Rejniak said of losing third-year forward and guard R.J. Rosa as well as first-year guard Kewan Beebe to a hand injury sustained during the first against the Cardinals.

With Rosa’s 9.4 point average with a career high of 20 against both Hamilton College and Oneonta, along with Beebe’s 83.3 percent from the charity stripe, the deficiency of both on the court is felt, second-year guard Keegan Donovan said.

“R.J. was a starter and did a lot for us,” Donovan said. “Not only from a scoring aspect but just as an overall presence, he brought a lot of energy. He was long and athletic. Kewan was starting to get a lot more burn and really starting to find his role. Whenever you lose players it’s a blow to the team.”

But Rejniak and the players alike said they are not discouraged as they look toward the rest of the season.

“They know exactly what they have to do,” Rejniak said. Learning to keep constant pressure on their opponents, he said, and “turning the screw, rather than just relinquish that grasp” like they have done in many games this season, will be the key to success.

“I think we’re going to turn this around and go on a run,” Taldi said. “For whatever bizarre reason we perform better on the road than we do on our home court, so maybe these next three road games are a blessing in disguise. Basketball is a game of runs and streaks, hopefully we see some positives this week.”

An upcoming streak is necessary to the Hawks’ SUNYAC playoff hopes, as the team must win six out of their next eight games in order to secure a .500 record for the season and obtain the sixth spot in the tournament, Donovan said.

“I have high hopes and full intentions of making the playoffs,” he said.

The Hawks will begin the second half of regular season play on Friday, Jan. 31 against Potsdam before taking on Plattsburgh Saturday, Feb. 1 and SUNY Cortland Tuesday, Feb. 4.