January 12, 2013
Dragons bounce Bengals
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Jesse Winter (12) gets in front of Buffalo State’s Anthony Hamer (10) in the first half Friday night. Winter scored 20 points in a 100-89 Red Dragons victory.
Usually when a team scores 100 points in a collegiate basketball outing the post-game is spent gushing over that offensive production.
And there’s no doubt SUNY Cortland was most proficient in that department. The Red Dragons came up with a 54-point first half Corey Gymnasium masterpiece and had five players finish in double figures while halting a recent two-game losing skid with a resounding 100-89 victory over Buffalo State on Friday night.
Still, here was senior point guard and 18-point contributor Jeremy Smith afterwards citing another key ingredient to the Red Dragons’ ninth victory in a dozen court appearances this season.
“I think we’re more happy with the defense,” the quick-footed veteran guard from the Bronx noted. “They have two good scorers on that team and on Tuesday (in a loss at New Paltz) we didn’t stop their top scorers. Today we came out with the emphasis to make it hard on those scorers.”
Sophomore Roderick Epps and senior Jake Simmons are the two dangerous Buffalo State weapons of which Smith speaks, averaging 24.1 and 20.3 points respectively for a Bengals squad that came to town sharing first place in the conference standings.
Epps would reach his average, though Cortland coach Tom Spanbauer pointed out it took the rangy 6-foot-4 guard 25 shots to get his 24 points. Guard Simmons — who torched the Red Dragons for 32 points in a wild 108-105 Cortland overtime victory over the Bengals a season ago at Corey Gymnasium — scored just six points on 2-for-13 shooting during this visit. He was an uncharacteristic 0-for-6 beyond the 3-point arc.
“He was one of the focal points,” said senior Cortland point guard Jesse Winter, who spent part of the evening shadowing Simmons’ every move. “We knew he was one of the top scorers in the league, so we tried to limit his touches and take care of him.”
What Coach Spanbauer singled out as crucial to Cortland success were the three offensive charges drawn by senior Harrison Hefele in the first half, when Cortland was taking 54-38 control of things. “It made a difference because they stopped attacking a little bit. And it got contagious,where our guys rotated and forced them to take a lot of pull-up shots instead of going to the rim,” said Spanbauer.
Sure the Bengals finished with 89 points, a good night’s work for anyone. But 19 of those points arrived over the final two minutes during mop-up time. When Cortland freshman Brendan Ferguson swished a 3-pointer with 2:50 left to play, the Red Dragons lead was a lopsided 96-68 prior to that late Bengals burst towards respectability.
IN GAME THAT left both sides among a second place crowd of a half-dozen 3-2 teams now crammed behind 4-1 Geneseo in the SUNYAC standings, Cortland never trailed starting with 6-foot-9 center Dan Sternkopf controlling the opening tap and then scoring on a short inside shot seconds later.
Spreading the floor and taking advantage of the Bengals’ frisky nature, Winter benefited the most. The leading Cortland scorer had 17 points in the opening half featuring six fearless drives to the basket and a 3-pointer. He also handed out three assists.
Though sitting for a large chunk of the second half, Winter finished with a team-best 20 points. Senior Brian Manning provided his usual spark off the bench with 17 points and 11 rebounds, including four treys. Forward Kevin McMahon added 14 points, back-up guard Lamard Herron 10 points and Hefele pulled down a team-high dozen rebounds.
“We just made sure the little things were really crisp this game. In the past games we lost we weren’t doing the things, the fundamentals, that coach has been teaching us,” said Winter. “We made it real important that we had to be the scrappy ones, we had to be the enforcers, and I think we did that tonight.”
When Winter wasn’t getting to the rim, Cortland was knocking down shots — Manning with a couple of 3-pointers to go along with additional treys swished by Smith and Herron. There was also the first half highlight of McMahon dunking off a Winter fast break lob.
“We did a really nice job of moving the ball and our decision making was really good in regards to having a nice balance of attacking and driving at the rim, or attacking and then moving the ball via the pass to open shooters,” said Coach Spanbauer. “So we definitely did a good job reacting to what they were doing defensively.”
CORTLAND ONLY TURNED the ball over twice during that 54-point opening half when the frantic pace seemed ripe for overeager errors.
“We knew they wanted to go up-tempo, and we said, well, we want to go up-tempo as well,” added Spanbauer. “When you go up-tempo, many times you have to couple that with good decisions so you’re not playing over the edge and out of control. And I thought we had good balance doing that.”
Having lost their last two contests — an overtime setback to nationally-ranked NAIA school Embry-Riddle in Florida over the holiday break and last Tuesday’s loss at New Paltz in a game that was tied heading into the final minute — Cortland felt good to get back on track heading into this afternoon’s 4 p.m. hosting of Fredonia.
“I don’t want to say must-win, but it was a critical game,” said Winter. “It was a good game to get back home, get back on track. It was a good win, and we’ll take it.”
“We were very upset because we didn’t play as well as we should have,” said Smith off the 77-70 loss at New Paltz. “We had a lot of defensive lapses, so we just wanted to come out tonight and make a statement.”
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