The men’s basketball team is not off to the start they had imagined, but they’re looking for improvement on a game-by-game basis.
Over the last week, New Paltz dropped their first three State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) games of the season, including a close match against SUNY Cortland on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
The Hawks dropped their first conference matchup of the season to SUNY Geneseo on Friday, Dec. 2 by a score of 95-74.
New Paltz had 10 different players score points throughout the game. The Hawks led by as much as nine points in the first half, and got outscored in the second half by 20 points.
Hawks head coach Mike Rejniak said his team is showing progress, but playing until the buzzer is what attributes to a team’s success.
“I think the first half against Geneseo saw the best basketball we’ve played since I’ve been here,” he said. “The troubling thing is, basketball is a game of 40 minutes so we have to look to play until the very end.”
Hawks third-year guard Dylan Balducci and third-year forward James Saunders led the Hawks in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Knights third-year guard John Decker scored 32 points after averaging 29.3 points-per-game prior to the matchup.
“We were sharing the rock really well, everyone was getting a touch defensively, we were communicating and working as a unit better than we have in the past,” Rejniak said. “However, as the game wore on, we lost sight of what got us the lead. That’s part of us growing as a team and evolving.”
The following day, New Paltz suffered a 52-point loss to The College at Brockport, as the Golden Eagles moved to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in SUNYAC play.
Brockport started the game on a 12-0 run and never looked back, as they finished the first half with a 47-16 lead. Five players on Brockport’s team finished in double figures to help finalize the 98-46 win.
“Brockport presses the entire game and the way they pressed made us lose our composure,” Rejniak said. “We have to do a better job of resetting because when stressors happen to an athlete, they become tunnel visioned and you stop seeing what’s around you and mainly what’s in front of you.”
Rejniak noted that the team will work on pressure situations in practice in order to become more comfortable with what’s around them during games.
“On Saturday, we let defensive pressure speed us up too much,” he said. “We have to mimic that more in practice so we can be able to handle it more in games. There’s a little more preparation work, but as far as the team goes, I still love the progress we’re showing. We just need to make the translation from practice to the games more consistently.”
The Hawks will finish the last two games of their homestand on Saturday, Dec. 10 against SUNY Oneonta and Tuesday, Dec. 13 against Mount Saint Mary College.
The Hawks will look to rebound against these teams after dropping the season series against SUNY Oneonta last year and losing by seven against Mount Saint Mary College early last season.
“A lot of it is taking care of the little things,” Rejniak said. “We have to treat practice like games because I’m a firm believer of you practice the way you play. We have to buy into the coaching and teammates feedback that we give and continue to take that feedback and grow from it. We have our identity, but we have to make it more crystallized.”
• Saturday, Dec. 10 vs. SUNY Oneonta at the Hawk Center, 2 p.m. (SUNYAC)
• Tuesday, Dec. 13 vs. Mount Saint Mary College at the Hawk Center, 5:30 p.m.