Local rival SUNY-Cortland (3–1) downed the men’s basketball team (1–5) by a final score of 68-67 last night in Ben Light Gymnasium.
The Red Dragons took possession trailing 66-67 with less than 15 seconds remaining in the game and were able to find sophomore forward Kevin McMahon, who put in the game-winning basket with 4.1 seconds left on the clock.
Bombers’ Assistant Coach Jon Tanous said his team went with a man-to-man defense off the Red Dragon inbound play and did not get the desired matchup.
“We went with a man to man and switched everything – we got a big guy on their guard and he took us off the dribble and forced help,” Tanous said. “We didn’t have the second rotation down to help.”
Cortland obtained possession following a missed wide-open layup from Bombers sophomore forward and center Frank Mitchell. Mitchell led the Blue and Gold with a double-double, going 10 of 15 from the floor to score 24 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
The game was close throughout – the largest lead of the game was 10 points, and it was not held for long.
The Bombers opened the game in a 2-3 zone defense, which forced the Red Dragons into shooting 36 percent from the field. The Bombers entered halftime leading by a score of 39-31.
South Hill began playing a man-to-man defense in the second half, and the Red Dragons got back into the game utilizing a boost in their shooting percentage.
Cortland Head Coach Tom Spanbauer said the Bombers’ defensive switch was key in influencing the game.
“We were able to get a little bit better flow to our offense,” Spanbauer said. “We made a few more shots early in the second half which forced Ithaca to play more man-to-man, which I thought was to our benefit.”
The Blue and Gold’s offense, on the other hand, went downhill in the second half as they shot just 39 percent from the field and 10 percent from three-point land.
Tanous said Cortland’s second half pressure defense changed the way the Bombers reacted on offense.
“When they played their zone and stayed out with our shooters it kind of made us stagnant,” he said. “We kind of weren’t getting the ball moved around as we would’ve liked.”
Junior center Sinjin Wightman returned shortly after injuring his knee and provided a much-needed spark for the Bombers, collecting a loose ball and calling a timeout. Wightman then proceeded to connect on a layup, pulling South Hill to within four. He snagged a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with six points and two blocked shots.
With 2:50 to play, the Bombers were trailing by three when Marcus sniped a rare four-point play to thrust the Bombers ahead by one.
But the South Hill squad was unable to drive the entire court’s length in 4.1 seconds. Rossi attempted to dribble the ball up the full court, but it stripped from him, putting a frustrating end to the Bombers’ fifth loss of the season.
Marcus said the loss was frustrating for the team, who had been looking for a solid win to propel its momentum.
“It was a big one, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “In the first home game we wanted to show that we were capable and could come out and beat a team we felt we were better than, and it’s tough to keep losing these close games.”
The Blue and Gold will face St. Lawrence University at 8 p.m. Friday in Ben Light Gymnasium.