The Oswego State men’s basketball team looked to start off its season strong by putting in a solid performance at the Max Ziel Tournament. Though they showed good effort, in the end the Lakers came up short, falling in the finals to the Neumann University Knights Saturday after defeating the Lancaster Bible Chargers the day before.
The Lakers also won a non-conference match up against Ithaca College on Tuesday, to start their season with a 2-1 record.
The matchup against the Chargers was a defensive battle in the first half, as neither team amounted much on offense.
In the first 20 minutes, the Lakers shot 2-for-14 from three-point range, yet still managed to take a 26-23 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Lakers put some distance between themselves and the Chargers, with guard/forward Daniel Ross taking over the game and leading the Lakers to a 62-50 victory.
Ross finished with game-highs in both points and rebounds with 21 and 10, respectively. Lakers’ head coach Jason Leone was pleased with his senior’s all-around play and felt his play was something for the rest of the team to take notice of.
“I thought Dan played with a lot of spirit,” Leone said. “He did a nice job on boards, did a good job defensively against the other team’s best players, and obviously putting the ball in the basket for us. I think he sets a good example for the rest of the guys.”
The Syracuse native is aware of the position he is in as Oswego State’s lone senior.
“I’ve gotta set a good example, both offensively and defensively, and keep everyone focused and make sure they know what the game plan is,” Ross said. “It’s always good to get that first win out of the way.”
The team struggled to find any rhythm in the first half and Leone was aware of the growing pains his young squad will likely have to endure.
“It was a product of us playing a lot of new guys, playing very tight and very nervous,” Leone said. “Whether the kids admit it or not that what I thought we played like.”
The Lakers shot lights-out in the second half, starting on a 15-2 run to build its lead to 41-25 with 15:02 remaining in the game.
Oswego State shot 6-for-9 during that stretch, including 3-for-5 from the three-point line. Their surge allowed the team to play with a comfortable lead for the remainder of the game, as the Chargers were unable to cut the lead into single digits at any point.
Sophomore captain Alex Rawa recognized the adjustments the squad made heading toward the break and made sure to keep everyone focused.
“We started to pick it up at the end of the first half. I just told them to keep playing strong, do what you gotta do to go get this W,” Rawa said.
The win over Lancaster earned the Lakers a spot in Saturday night’s title game, but they were unable to bring home the title, falling 69-58 to Neumann.
The Lakers jumped out to an early lead, as the two teams battled for control throughout the game.
The Knights took the lead with 10:20 left in the first half when their senior guard Rich Whitten dunked, giving Neumann a 17-15 advantage.
The Knights held onto their lead, extending it to 34-24 heading into halftime.
Oswego State was 10-for-29 from the field, going 3-for-16 from the three-point line. The team was 1-for-5 on free throws.
Neumann started the second half strong, but the Lakers fought hard to hang around, scoring eight unanswered points to cut the Knights’ lead to eight.
Neumann then regained control, stretching their lead as far as 14 points with 8:03 left in the game. Oswego State continued to climb back into contention, but the comeback effort fell short as Neumann held on to win.
Ross led the Lakers with 28 points, a block, a steal and 10 rebounds. Brian Sortino added 11 points and chipped in a team-high two assists.
On Tuesday, the Lakers were able to bounce back, as they cruised to a 99-73 victory over Ithaca College.
Oswego State found success from long range throughout the game, knocking down 15 of 32 three-pointers.
The leading three-point shooter of the night was sophomore guard Kyle Covley, who connected on six of his eight attempts from deep as part of his team-high 21-point evening.
Covley was one of four Oswego State players to finish in double figures. Sortino finished with 17 points and three assists, while Ross and Rawa each contributed 15 points. Rawa also contributed three assists and Ross dished out nine of his own, which was a game-high.
The defense applied pressure from the start, putting the Bombers’ offense behind early. The Lakers recorded 15 steals during the game and Ross led the squad with four takeaways.
Oswego State was also able to consistently contest shots. The Lakers held the Bombers to 26 of 56 from the field, only allowing two scores from behind the arc.
The Lakers played aggressively, bringing their game to Ithaca, and the Bombers were unable to respond. Oswego State exploded for 41 of the game’s first 51 points, putting Ithaca 31 points back. The Bombers would pull no closer than 23 points from that point on.
The Lakers have two more games this week, both on the road. They travel to St. Lawrence University (1-2) on Friday night and Hartwick College (1-1) Sunday.