Like their female counterparts, the SUNY New Paltz men’s basketball team split last weekend 1-1 at home with a two-point loss against Fredonia and an exciting four-point victory over Buffalo State.
On Friday, Jan. 22, the Hawks went on a 12-2 run midway through the first quarter. The run was punctuated with a layup by Hawks third-year forward Brandon Guest with about seven minutes remaining in the first half, bringing their lead to 28-17.
The Blue Devils managed to cut the deficit down to four points toward the end of the half. However, after shooting 70 percent from beyond the arc, the Hawks went into the locker room leading 40-33.
The Hawks and the Devils went point-for-point down the stretch until Fredonia went on another short run to set the score 60-55 in their favor.
Later in the second half after layups by Hawks third-year forward Andrew Seniuk and Guest, the score was tied at 62. Fredonia’s second-year forward Ian Helps sunk two free throws and Guest had another layup shortly after to tie the score at 64.
Helps made another layup and New Paltz was unable to answer on the following possession. Guest would block Helps to regain possession with about 23 seconds to go, but unfortunately the Hawks were unable to capitalize and the final score of the game stayed at 66-64.
Both Hawks fourth-year co-captain R.J. Rosa and Guest would stuff the stats sheet for the Hawks; Rosa with 10 points, five assists, four steals, and one block and Guest recorded nine points, four rebounds and three blocks.
Rosa said he is starting to find his new role, something that many of his teammates have struggled to do as well this season.
“Part of the reason we were struggling so early was because a lot of us were having trouble finding their role and were trying to do things outside of those roles,” Rosa said. “I’m finding mine as a facilitator, hustle guy and I’m embracing that more now.”
Seniuk said the team needed to do a better job distributing the basketball during the game against Fredonia.
“We need to do a better job limiting the turnovers so we have to take care of the ball more,” Seniuk said.
The next day, the Hawks snapped their 12-game losing streak with their first conference win against Buffalo State with a final score of 81-77.
“I think that’s the best thing about back-to-back games, you can’t think about it at all, you have to have amnesia,” Hawks Head Coach Mike Rejniak said. “If you get too down on a loss or too high on a win then it can get you on Saturday, so you have to hit the reset button and teams that are able to most effectively, tend to be the best teams in the league.”
The opening minutes of the game were a see-saw battle.
Both teams continued to go back and forth for the remainder of the first half until a mid-range jumper just before the buzzer by the Bengals’ third-year guard Jordan Glover tied the score at 36-all at the half.
The Bengals scored off the first possession of the second half and held their lead until Seniuk put the Hawks ahead with an old-fashioned three point play with 8:57 remaining in the game.
Seniuk would finish the night with a total of 24 points, four rebounds, two blocks, one steal and one assist.
Rosa said that Seniuk is the most underrated fundamental basketball player he has ever seen.
“This weekend he finally reaped the rewards,” Rosa said. “He always puts a lot of work in and he’s the most consistent player we have, it’s about time he had a game like that.”
Other impact players were Hawks first-year guard and forward Nick Paquette tied his previous career-high with 16 points, Guest with several key points late in the game with a total of 11 and Rosa with seven points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“We just really focused on winning,” Seniuk said. “We knew we couldn’t go 0-2 in a home weekend against SUNYAC opponents.”
The Hawks and the Bengals traded points until New Paltz led by as many as seven points, the last of which came off of a layup by Seniuk with 3:48 left in the game.
After a dunk by Bengals’ third-year forward Leon Moise, the Bengals forced a turnover and took the lead. On the next possession, the Hawks drew a charge on a fast-break and got the ball back with 34 seconds to go. Hawks first-year guard Matt Misser was fouled on the next play and made the two subsequent bonus free throws.
Guest would then rebound a Bengal miss and get fouled immediately with seven seconds remaining and made both free throws to give the Hawks a five-point cushion. Buffalo State’s third-year guard Nico McLean was fouled on a three-point attempt on the next possession and would make the first two free throws and the miss on the third shot was rebounded by Rosa. Rosa was fouled immediately and made one of his two free throw attempts to bring the final score to 81-77.
“One of our mantras this year has been ‘unfinished business’ and it’s because of what happened last year; we lost in a buzzer beater to Buffalo State,” Rosa said. “We kind of used that as a springboard in the beginning of the game and remembered what they did to us last year on our home court and knocked us out of playoffs so that was definitely a way to motivate ourselves.”
On Friday, Jan. 29 the Hawks fell to SUNY Oswego 75-59. Seniuk tallied 13 points, four rebounds, an assist and a block, Misser had 12 points, four rebounds and two assists, and Rosa recorded 10 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists.
The following day the Hawks slayed the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons with a score of 80-74 at SUNY Cortland. Paquette netted a career-high of 21 points and Hawks fourth-year guard Keegan Donovan tossed in 20 points and five assists coming off the bench.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2 the Hawks were defeated by SUNY Oneonta 81-59.
Their record is now is now 3-14 overall and 2-9 in conference play.
The Hawks will continue their five-game conference road trip and travel to Potsdam and Plattsburgh this weekend.
“A game’s a game no matter where you play it no matter if it’s home or on the road,” Rejniak said. “Every team has to do it, every team has to travel to us, every team has road stretches and this is just our’s. In the end, it’s just mental prep, mental focus and making sure we’re ready to rock and roll when we step off that bus.”