Men's basketball escapes Oswego, falls to Cortland

The Geneseo men's basketball team had yet another up-and-down weekend, winning Friday against SUNY Oswego on a last-minute shot by senior Brandon Simpson before falling in double overtime to SUNY Cortland the next day.

In Friday's match against the Lakers, Geneseo led for the majority of the game. The Knights took a 33-25 halftime lead, which they extended to 12 points early in the second half. A stretch of back-and-forth play ensued, and despite Geneseo's efforts to put the Lakers away, Oswego always managed to cut the deficit. The Lakers, however, were never able to muster enough of a run to take the lead.

With the game tied at 66 off a three-point shot from Sean Michele of Oswego, the Knights came down the court with just 10 ticks on the clock. Simpson pulled up and hit a jumper for the win with three seconds left to cap his 22-point performance.

Despite allowing Oswego to crawl back, Simpson believes these close games give the Knights confidence, as well as himself. "That shot felt like all the rest," he said of the shot that gave Geneseo a key conference win, while admitting it was the first time he was in the position to put the team on his back.

Saturday's contest against Cortland must have been déjà vu for Geneseo. As usual, the Knights had a small lead for almost the entire game, until Cortland tied the game with three seconds left to force overtime. The first overtime saw little action for either team; both scored only four points and the game remained tied at 65-65. Simpson had another chance to be the hero for Geneseo at the end but his shot rolled around the rim before falling out.

In the second overtime, Cortland found the separation that Geneseo never could, scoring the first 11 points and holding on for the 87-73 win. Cortland's junior Dustin Marshall led all scorers with 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while also hitting the equalizer with seconds left in regulation.

The game showed two chinks in Geneseo's armor that may have changed the result: The Knights went 3-10 at the foul line, while Cortland finished on 24 of their 27 foul shots. Geneseo also struggled on the boards, grabbing only 38 rebounds compared to 52 by Cortland.

Although four seniors contribute to the team, head coach Steve Minton said he still thinks of this group as relatively young, and expressed confidence that younger players will learn and improve as the season moves on.

Simpson said he considers balanced scoring one of the team's strongest assets. The fact that teammates known as role players can carry more of the burden not only alleviates some of the pressure on Geneseo's big scorers, but shows that the squad is "getting on the same page and starting to gel more." Minton said the newfound balance might make "other teams slip up and leave someone open who is very capable."

Senior Kyle Stevens called the team's recent struggles a "tough adjustment" when compared to last year's success, but the competitiveness and talent of the team gives hope for a late-season push. Despite failing to win back-to-back games so far this season, Simpson said he believes that his team is "right where it needs to be," as close games like those against Cortland and a one-point loss to Oneonta, another conference leader show, Geneseo can "hang in there against the best teams."

{Editor's note: On Tuesday, the men's team escaped with another close victory as they beat Buffalo State, 64-60. Senior Jordan Blair was 3-4 from the charity stripe in the last 19 seconds to seal the win for the Knights.}