February 6, 2013
Cortland women clicking
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Megan Touhey (13) is trailed by Oneonta State’s Lyteshia Price (20) in the second half Tuesday at Corey Gym. Touhey sparked the Red Dragons to a 58-44 win.
Not too long ago, the SUNY Cortland women’s basketball team was wondering if playing in the post-season was even a possibility.
But now after rolling off four consecutive SUNY Athletic Conference victories — including Tuesday night’s 58-44 home court triumph over Oneonta — the Red Dragons find themselves tied for third place with the regular season finish line just four contests away.
Now the resurgent Red Dragons are in position to earn a first round playoff home game after improving to 8-6 in the conference, evening up their overall record at 10-10 and avenging a four-point loss at Oneonta last month.
“We really buckled down and picked it up in practice,” said junior forward Megan Touhey of this Cortland turnaround, the Maine-Endwell grad having contributed a game-high 17 points and three steals to the conquering of Oneonta. “We knew that we were struggling and we wanted to get things going and really come together as a team, and it’s working. Our defense is great, and we still have things to work on which is the best part. We’re going to get better, so it’s fun.”
Cortland’s defense held Oneonta (7-7 SUNYAC, 10-11 overall) to just 28 percent shooting for the game, with the Corey Gymnasium visitors making just 4-of-20 second half shots.
Cortland’s offense did enough to earn this win, as freshman guard Caysea Cohen with 12 points and sophomore guard Brittany Rando with 10 points joined Touhey in double figures.
“We’re older a month,” is the simple explanation Coach Jeannette Mosher had for Cortland’s second semester improvement. The Red Dragons were a struggling 3-6 squad riding a four-game losing streak when their Christmas break arrived.
“The experience... they have more games, more practices, more minutes on the court,” she continued. “We’re keeping it simple. The things that we talk about now they’re repeating, so it’s really just the little things and a matter of growing up a little bit.”
CORTLAND HELD A slim 27-25 lead at the break, where most statistics were pretty even. Cortland made 10-of-31 shots and Oneonta 10-of-30 shots, both teams had a pair of free throws and the visitors had a slight 21-19 rebounding edge.
The main difference was the Cortland made five 3-pointers to three for Oneonta, Touhey with 3-for-4 long range accuracy over those opening 20 minutes.
“If you look at halftime, everything was even,” said Coach Mosher. “I told the girls the team who made adjustments and could go out and execute is going to win the game, and I think we just buckled down enough on defense to get it done.”
Oneonta held a 33-29 second half lead before going nearly seven minutes scoreless, a lengthy Touhey 3-pointer finishing off a run of 11 unanswered Cortland points over that stretch.
Oneonta was still within 42-40 when junior forward Grace Williamson’s low post basket with seven minutes left started the decisive Cortland stretch run. Oneonta was out-scored 18-4 over those closing seven minutes, with those four points all coming on free throws. Rando had a 3-pointer early in that pullaway and Touhey had a late three-point play after grabbing a teammate’s missed free throw down the stretch.
Only junior guard Kristin Pappalardo had success shooting the basketball for Oneonta, finishing with 13 points including four 3-pointers. Junior guard Grace Schilling also reached double figures with 10 points, six of those coming on free throws.
Cortland shot only 32 percent from the floor, but that was enough while finishing with a 40-34 rebounding edge and forcing 21 Oneonta turnovers. Sophomore Brooke DeMarco came off the bench to grab a team-high eight rebounds, while Williamson and Erin Wolstenholme grabbed six apiece.
The Red Dragons also had 14 assists on their 18 basket, guard Lindsey Minor, Williamson and Wolstenholme with three assists apiece.
“IF YOU LOOK at our shooting percentage, and we’re not good on the year anyway, you see why we have to count on our defense,” said Mosher. “Our (2-3) zone defense has been something the girls have kind of bought into and has been working for us.”
“It’s pretty fun to scramble around and get steals,” said Touhey of Cortland’s defensive success.
So now comes Friday’s 6 p.m. hosting of Oswego, the team Cortland is tied with for third place in the standings. The Lakers will come to town off last night’s 75-66 loss to first place New Paltz.
“We know we needed these wins, and it just builds up the momentum,” said Touhey of this Cortland streak heading into the Oswego game. Cortland lost 51-35 at Oswego back on Jan. 26 prior to winning its next four outings.
“That’s what this league is like, it can change in a weekend,” said Mosher. “You just have to make sure you’re focused because you never know this year.”
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