Unlike the meeting last year between the Oswego State men’s basketball team and Utica College, this game didn’t go down to the final seconds, but Utica College came out victorious for the second year in a row, 82-71.
The Lakers went into the half trailing only 37-35, but were unable to rally to win their sixth consecutive season-opener and first win under new head coach Adam Stockwell.
With less than eight minutes left in regulation and the score 60-59, the Pioneers were able to take control and embark on an 8-1 run to bring the score to 68-60. The Lakers’ Chad Burridge then hit a free-throw, completing a 3-point play and cutting the lead to five. It would be the closest they would get, however.
"It was just two teams out there battling," Pioneers head coach Christopher Connolly said. "I think both teams’ players were out there beating each other up."
The Pioneers were able to build on their lead with the help of senior Patrick Goodman, as he led the offense with 27 points and also came down with 14 rebounds for a double-double. James Patterson also scored in double-digits with 11 points, while picking up six rebounds.
Utica was able to take control of the game early, going on a 6-0 run to start the game, but the Lakers rallied back. The Lakers and Pioneers traded leads in the first half, but the main problem for the Lakers turned out to be their 3-point shooting, as they hit only three of their 14 attempts in the first half. The second half wasn’t much different, as they took 10 attempts from past the 3-point arch and didn’t hit a single one – which clearly wasn’t part of their strategy.
"No, that was definitely not the game plan," Stockwell said. "We wanted to get the ball inside and we got a little nervous in front of the home crowd. Utica did a great job of keeping us out of the paint and we ended up taking a lot of 3-pointers, which was clearly what we were not looking to do."
Sophomore Ryan Sheridan led the Lakers in 3-pointers with two, finishing with a total of 10 points on top of one assist and nine rebounds. Burridge led all offense with a team-high 25 points.
"We have good shooters, we just didn’t take good shots with them," Stockwell said.
The Pioneers were able to stifle most of the Lakers’ shots, which turned out to be a problem for the Lakers as they played their first game under Stockwell’s new system. The system is more motion-based and allows players to read where the ball is, but it allows the team to work together. Ideally, that should allow the Lakers to have each other’s backs, but that was not the case, as the Pioneers prepared well for the new system.
"We allowed Utica to basically dictate what shots we were taking and they forced us into tough ones," Stockwell said. "They did a great job of really pressuring us and taking us out of things we really wanted to do."
Despite the inability to have the system go their way, this Laker team isn’t one that will be overlooked for the rest of the season, according to Connolly.
"Traditionally, over the last 10-or-12-years, [Oswego State has] been a good program," he said. "And that’s definitely going to continue under coach Stockwell. They play deep, they’re tough, physical; we knew coming into here to get this win we really had to play well."
In order to get to where Stockwell wants the Lakers to be for the season, and upcoming Max Ziel Tournament which they are hosting this weekend, they will have their hands full.
"Well certainly our defensive intensity was not good," Stockwell said. "We did not do a good job of keeping the ball out of the perimeter. I thought we did a poor job with the backboards as far as what we’re trying to accomplish there. Those were the two things that stuck out with me other than the 3-point shots."