Last Friday the Geneseo men's basketball team took on SUNY Oneonta and were handed a solid 71-57 defeat, but bounced back to secure a last-minute win against SUNY New Paltz the following day.
Although in past weeks the team has proved they are capable of handling teams of any caliber, Oneonta - third-place in the SUNYAC standings - proved to be too much for Geneseo. Facing an 11-point deficit by halftime, the Knights scrambled back to within four in the second half, but never managed to take the lead.
Senior Brandon Simpson did his part, leading Geneseo with 17 points and nine rebounds, including going 6-8 from the foul line. Sophomore John Drazan went 5-5 from the field to finish with 12 points on the night, while fellow sophomore Abe Miller contributed 10 points and five rebounds in the loss.
Head coach Steve Minton pointed to Oneonta's strong ball handlers and ability to finish plays as two elements that wore out Geneseo's defense as the game went on.
The next day saw more of the nail-biting action that Geneseo has become accustomed to this season. After battling to establish a 31-26 lead at halftime, the Knights allowed the Hawks to take off on a second-half run and fell behind after consecutive three-pointers.
Drazan capped off a solid weekend by tying New Paltz with 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining and finishing with 14 points on the night. Minton called Drazan's impact "a very pleasant surprise." In a not-so-surprising turn of events, it was up to Simpson to carry the team to victory, as he sank a game-winning baseline jump shot with only 10 seconds to play.
It was the second week in a row Simpson took the role as go-to-guy for Geneseo; he scored the game winner against SUNY Oswego last Friday. Minton noted that now that Simpson has established himself as a game-changer, he can "act as a decoy" and open up options for other members of the team. Sophomore Mike Hoy, one of the young emerging leaders for the Knights, led Geneseo with 15 points.
Another player who has been asserting himself in the Knights lineup is sophomore Ethan Estabrooks. Estabrooks, who was a defensive sub against New Paltz, was key in the final minutes to secure the final possession for Geneseo. The breadth of Geneseo's scoring helped separate them from their opponents, as the Knights bench outscored the Hawks bench 18-2 in the second stanza.
Minton said that the string of close games that Geneseo has played lately has been a positive thing, especially since the Knights have been finding ways to come out on top. Minton added that he "can't be disappointed" with younger contributors, such as Hoy, gaining such valuable experience.
Geneseo now sits at eighth place in the SUNYAC standings with just four games left in the regular season. The Knights are 6-8 in conference play and 7-14 overall. The top eight teams in the conference make the playoffs; Geneseo currently holds the tiebreaker over both ninth-place Oswego and seventh-place New Paltz.
Minton said that the team will not settle for eighth place and looks to move up the ranks "spot to spot." The team returns to Kuhl Gymnasium on Friday at 8 p.m. to take on SUNY Brockport and continue its quest for a conference title.