The men’s basketball team dropped their 2016-17 season opener to Vassar College by a score of 71-65 on Tuesday, Nov. 15 in Poughkeepsie.
Despite the loss, Hawks head coach Mike Rejniak said he saw a lot of positives in the team’s performance.
“In the final two minutes, Vassar made winning plays and we turned some away,” Rejniak said. “The first game is always very unique in those regards, but I think for us to battle back from 15 points down and take the lead, that showed great character and heart by my team. Now we are just looking to take that next step forward.”
The Hawks and Vassar were engaged in a seesaw affair for most of the first half, before the Brewers sunk 13 unanswered points, going up 33-20 at 5:36.
The Hawks battled back to get within striking distance by the end of the half with contributions from second-year co-captain Malik Seelal and fourth-year co-captain Andrew Seniuk, and a layup from second-year forward Brandon Tolliver to make it a 39-33 game.
Vassar hit two free-throws to kick-off the second half, but the Hawks knotted the game up at 41 at 16:02 with a jumper from third-year guard and forward Kevin Coyle.
Both teams were neck and neck the next several minutes, before Tolliver hit a layup off a fastbreak in the paint to put the Hawks up 50-48 at 10:57.
Vassar second-year co-captain Alex Seff answered with back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Brewers a lead they would never look back from.
The Hawks would not go down without a fight, however, as they managed to keep the game close, and continued until the final buzzer.
“We had a lot of looks that didn’t go down,” Rejniak said. “Lot of open shots that didn’t fall. You know, turnovers in crucial moments, that was a weakness. We have to take care of the ball when it matters most, and then we have to execute. As this team continues to grow together, and continues to form that chemistry, I think that will come along.”
Vassar made the Hawks pay for their turnovers, converting 17 points off of Hawks’ lost possessions.
New Paltz will look to improve on decreasing their turnover rate when they travel to Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania for the Greg Richards ‘08 Memorial Tip-Off tournament on Friday, Nov. 18.
The Hawks will take on Allegheny that night at 7 p.m., followed by a matinee game against D’Youville College on Saturday at 1 p.m.
They will not play a game at home until Tuesday, Dec. 6 when they take on SUNY Cortland, a State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) opponent.
Rejniak said there are difficulties of starting the season with seven straight road games.
“It’s brutal,” he said. “I think there’s definitely a certain comfortability playing at home. On the road, we are all that we have. We are 16-strong plus coaching staff, so the energy has to come from within, because you’re certainly not going to get it in another person’s gym.”
Rejniak also added that being the visiting team is a lot more mental than it is physical.
“You’ve got to adhere to that, and you need to bring that much focus and that much positivity, because if you don’t, you can feel like you’re out on an island,” he said.
After the tournament, the Hawks continue their road trip and make stops at Middlebury College, Springfield College, SUNY Geneseo and The College at Brockport.
• Third-Year guard and forward
Kevin Coyle Scored a team-high 26
points in his Hawks debut
• First-year forward Matt English
registered nine points in his
• Second-year guard and forward
Nick Paquette went 3-for-6 from
beyond the arc
• The Hawks lead the all-time
series with Vassar 16-10