Oswego State used a solid defensive performance to defeat the St. Lawrence University Saints on Friday as it held on to win, 62-58.
The Lakers looked to start off the game on the right foot, but the Saints defense was tough out of the gate, as the Lakers struggled to find easy shots. Both teams drew a good amount of fouls early on.
Willie Zachary established his presence for the Saints at the start. The sophomore scored eight of the Saints’ first nine points. Each teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm, as it was 16-15 in favor of the Saints with 10 minutes left before halftime.
Sophomore Brian Sortino and senior Rashawn Powell, two key players during last weekend Max Ziel Men’s Basketball Tournament, did their part to try and jump start the Laker offense through the opening 20 minutes.
Guard/forward Walter Sampson believes this was a good game to help the team mentally prepare.
“This is a good momentum starter for us, we’ve got a tough team coming in on Tuesday so these next practices are very important,” Sampson said.
The Lakers went on a 7-0 run to get themselves the lead, 22-18, with under seven minutes left in the half. The defense, which has been their best asset so far this season, continued to get the job done against the Saints. The Saints shot 7-for-24 from the floor in the first half.
The Lakers were able to more or less figure out the Saints defense and scored more easily as the half went on. They also drew a good amount of free throws, and converted them, shooting 10-for-13 from the stripe in the first half.
Powell believes this was a good win against a good team.
“They were a pretty good team and physical team so we knew coming in we had to play smart,”Powell said. “Toughness on defense, not giving them easy buckets, rebounding, getting out and running.
The Lakers led 26-19 with just under three minutes left and pulled away a little further before the half to take a ten point lead at the break, 34-24. Sortino was the Lakers leading scorer with eight points on three-for-eight shooting from the floor. Powell was right behind him contributing six points on 3-for-4 shooting. The Lakers ended the first half on a 17-5 run. The Lakers shot 42.3 percent in the first half from the floor.
Powell thinks the team has learned from their first game of the season, that it was a lesson learned and it will help them in the long run.
“It was a nasty taste in our mouth, we don’t like losing as a team but we used it as a learning experience and we showed it today in the game,” Powell said.
The Lakers went into the second half hoping they could continue to stifle the Saints offense. It was not that easy right away as the Saints cut the Lakers lead to seven, 36-29. After that both teams offenses struggled for the next few minutes. The Lakers eventually got on a small run with a few fast breaks, scored by Sortino and Powell, to expand the lead back to 10, 42-32.
The Lakers were making the extra effort all game, diving for 50-50 balls and grabbing the tough offensive rebounds. The game remained a tight affair, as both teams tried to find the run that would put the game away.
Oswego State led by 15 with eight minutes left as it looked to seek control of the game. The team went on an 11-0 over a six-minute span and led 53-36. Its defense swarmed St. Lawrence as it struggled to find good looks and wound up taking plenty of tough shots. However, the visitors did not go away without a fight as they scored seven straight points to cut the lead to ten with five and a half minutes remaining. Powell broke that run with a basket.
The Lakers continued to put pressure on the Saints with their defense. They stymied them all game as they maintained a consistent second half lead that rarely felt threatened. That was until down the stretch where key baskets put the game out of reach.
Laker head coach Jason Leone is not particularly concerned over the Lakers record, but rather the team’s overall progress as they come up closer toward conference play. He sees the offense struggling early on, but knows the team will improve offensively as the season progresses.
“I’m more concerned with daily progression,” Leone said. “Once our guys get comfortable in roles, we’ll see our offensive numbers increase a little bit.”