The Geneseo women's basketball team turned in two more promising performances this weekend as they split a pair of conference matchups against SUNY Oswego and top-seeded SUNY Cortland.
On Friday night, Geneseo knocked off the Lakers by a score of 49-41 but then fell in the Saturday matinee against the Red Dragons, 56-47.
For the Knights, defense has been the name of the game all season long. Chants of "DEFENSE, DEFENSE" were heard from the stands and bench, a battle cry embodying one of their most important goals.
"Defense has been the key to what we've done all year," head coach Scott Hemer said. Friday was certainly no exception.
Geneseo exhibited their strong defense against Oswego as the Knights held the Lakers to an anemic 24.5 percent shooting, allowing only 12 points in the first half.
"We were able to really get after it on the defensive end," Hemer said. "Anytime you can hold a team of Oswego's caliber below 60 points you're generally pretty happy with the outcome, so for us to go into the last two minutes of the game and have them be under 40 points, that's saying a lot."
The dominating defensive performance would have said a lot more if the Knights had been able to get into some offensive rhythm. They, too, were held below 60 points, shooting 23 percent from the floor.
Despite coming off a recent ankle injury, junior Khadija Campbell provided some spark to the Knights' offense, racking up a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
"I thought Khadija did a nice job of being a leader for us in both games this weekend, particularly on Friday," Hemer said. "We were worried about her missing significant time but fortunately she was able to come back and play for us."
Sophomore Bri Dunton added another 13 points, while junior Brittany Finkle blocked three shots and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Knights notched the critical win - a win that moves them into a three-way tie for third place and secures a tiebreaker with Oswego, if that playoff scenario should arise.
On Saturday, Geneseo saw the mighty Red Dragons roll into town. The last time the two teams faced off, Geneseo shocked everyone as they slew the Red Dragons 61-52 on their home court, handing them their only conference loss of the season.
This time, Geneseo kept it close once again as they tied the game at 25-25 going into halftime, taking the lead on a three-point play by junior Alyssa Polosky in the second half.
In the end, the same magic couldn't be repeated as Cortland returned the favor, reeling off 13 consecutive points to seal the victory. Despite the loss, Geneseo's players said that their confidence remains high.
"We're one of the very few teams who has shown the ability to play with [Cortland] for 40 minutes … that first game was not a fluke," Hemer said. "I want the young ladies to know that we deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as a team like Cortland."
After this weekend's play, the Knights have won six of their last eight games, improving to 11-7 on the season and 7-4 in SUNYAC conference play.
Geneseo goes on the road this weekend with more pivotal conference action against SUNY Oneonta and SUNY New Paltz, the second and third placed teams in the conference.
"If you would have told me at the beginning of the year, with no seniors on our roster that we'd be tied for third place, I would have jumped on that opportunity in a heartbeat," Hemer said. "So to actually be here and have earned it, I'm really happy with the way our ladies have performed."
[Editor's note: The women's team got back on track with a solid 59-37 victory over Buffalo State on Tuesday night. Defense again was the key to victory as the Knights held the Bengals to 20.3% from the field.]