Lakers pick up first SUNYAC victory, improve defensively against Oneonta

Oswego State Lakers men’s basketball on Tuesday night defeated the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons 47-41 at Max Ziel Gymnasium in Oswego, New York.

The Lakers improve to 2-4 overall and pick up their first SUNYAC win of the season to go 1-1 in conference play.

Intense defense and missed shots was exhibit in this contest. A game this low scoring does not happen too often in a conference like SUNYAC that is known for explosive offenses.

The last time Oswego State took their home floor was in their SUNYAC Championship win against SUNY Oneonta. The Red Dragons bid for revenge fell short as they drop to 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in SUNYAC.

“The game is important because Oneonta is a good team,” Leone said. “They’re physical, they do some things going into the game I was a little nervous about the matchup because they do some things we have not been good at thus far.”

It was a slow back and forth start for both teams for most of the first half. With 5:17 left in the in the half, the Lakers took a 16-12 lead off a 3-pointer from freshman guard Liam Sanborn.

After a few scoreless minutes, the Red Dragons would go on 12-0 run to end the half and lead the Lakers 24-16. Both teams shot poorly, but Oneonta dominated the boards 30-20 at the intermission.

“At halftime they had a look in their eyes that I’ve seen a couple times this year where they were just ‘down’,” Leone said. “I said the ball will start going our way and we need to continue to play hard on defense. What are your choices? It’s not going to get worse shooting so you just got to out there and let it rip and stick together, play with heart and soul and grind this thing out.”

With 16 points as a team at the half, the Lakers lacked production with their top guys such as Pierre, Ferebee and Schupp. That trio would only combine for five points at the break.

Ferebee opened things up a bit with two nailed buckets from beyond the arc in the first two minutes of the second half.

It was the Laker defense unlike in their four losses that kept the team in the game. Oswego State would go over six minutes without scoring a point until a three by Brandon Gartland cut the Red Dragons lead to 32-25.

Another few minutes would go buy and the Red Dragons were back up by nine points, but another Sanborn 3-pointer would wake the team up as they only trailed by six at 34-28.

“I haven’t shot well really all year long, especially from the three,” Sanborn said. “Everyone keeps telling me to shoot and it gives me confidence and they don’t care how I shoot. Just play as a team and if you have a shot take it.”

The junior forward Josh Ivey would suddenly step in after a quiet first half and play an important down the stretch as the Lakers needed a spark.

Ivey would score six straight points off his own steal and an offensive rebound to bring the Lakers within 37-35 with 6:44 remaining. His running mate Pierre in the low post would also step up down the stretch and scored the next four points to tie it up 39-39.

“I just know I wanted to win this game and I had to come out for my seniors and just play hard,” Pierre said. “Me and Josh [Ivey] came together and collected everything off the basket.”

The Pierre-Ivey tandem would strike again. This time it was Ivey finishing a layup with just less than 30 seconds left off an assist from Pierre to give the Lakers their largest lead of 45-41 with 28 seconds left.

“It was the difference in the game I thought,” Leone said.

Ivey would officially the seal the deal for the Lakers with a big defensive rebound out of the Oneonta timeout that let out winning emotion from himself and his teammates.

“It felt good. Just playing with my teammates because we all play hard together,” Ivey said. “Just show some emotion, some grit and be happy.”

A Schupp free throw with seven seconds left was the end of it for the Lakers in a 47-41, much needed victory this early in the season.

Opponents averaged a total of 80 points per game against the Laker defense going into tonight and 39.1 first half points.

Both teams struggled shooting the ball, but defense was still virtue and a good sign for the Lakers after the start they had.

“I think we’re getting better,” Leone said. “We’ve played really good offensive teams. I think those games, although it was painful losing them, I thought we learned a lot about ourselves and that gave us an opportunity tonight on our home court to play a little more enthusiastic on the defensive end.”

Turning negatives from their first five road games into positives moving forward is the best thing for Oswego State to do now.

“I’m really trying to get them and everybody around our program to just not look at our record,” Leone said. “I really believe our team is going to be really good by the end of the year. We got good kids, we got good players.”

Oswego State will look to build off their big victory and will face another tough road stretch before winter break.

This Friday the Lakers will travel to western New York for a weekend of SUNYAC matchups at Buffalo State and SUNY Fredonia on Saturday.

“What’s next is we have to get back tomorrow, hopefully this injects some energy into us,” Leone said. “We can’t take a step back and keep this train moving.”


Photo by Austin Dearborn | The Oswegonian

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