By Skyler Cain
BUFFALO – The State University of New York at New Paltz concluded its two-game road trip in a hard-fought win against the Bengals of Buffalo State, 75-65.
The Hawks (7-2 overall, 5-0 SUNYAC) trailed for the beginning of the first half and struggled to get to the line early on while getting inside the paint. RJ Meyers-Turner was a nice spark off the bench providing 12 points in the first half, contributing to 26 of New Paltz’s bench points. Tyriek Frazier gave SUNY New Paltz the lead after an emphatic two handed slam, and the Hawks held on from there, as they entered the half up 39-30.
The Bengals (1-8, 0-4) went into half shooting just 28 percent from the field but were able to get to the free throw line, converting all seven of their attempts. Argjend Imeri paced Buffalo State with nine first half points to go along with six rebounds and three assists.
SUNY New Paltz built a double-digit cushion in the second half and seemingly looked as though it was pulling away for the easy win, but Buffalo State didn’t go away, making a late run to keep the game close on its home floor.
After the Bengals cut the difference to within five with just more than seven minutes to go off a 3-pointer by Imeri, Lucas Seyoum answered with a massive 3-pointer of his own, while taking contact and earning a trip to the foul line. After completing the four-point play, making the ensuing free throw, he pushed the lead back to 12 with five minutes to go that proved pivotal as the Hawks kept Buffalo State at arms-length from that point forward.
“Lucas hit a couple huge 3’s to swing the momentum after they cut it to five,” said SUNY New Paltz coach Keith Kenney. “Lucas can be a great player in our league. I also was proud of RJ and Dakoda [Smith] today, really was the key to us getting back into the game.”
The Hawks converted 19-of-24 from the free throw line, which was key to closing out the game and earn their sixth straight win to extend their undefeated season in the conference, making history with their first 5-0 SUNYAC start in program history.
“I am really proud of this group for winning six in a row and 5-0 in the league, which I’m sure is one of, if not the best conference start in our program’s history,” Kenney said. “This is a tough road trip and we won both games and need to continue to get better. We have a long way to go.”
Rylan Blondo continued his impressive season and led the team with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals with his teammates, Meyers-Turner and Seyoum right behind him with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Frazier finished with seven points and 10 rebounds, while Sean St. Lucia contributed all over with seven points, seven assists and six rebounds to go along with his three steals on the defensive side. For Buffalo State, Christian Smallhorne had 20 points and five rebounds while Imeri closed the game with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
SUNY New Paltz will head home after taking both games on the weekend and enter the winter break atop of the conference with a 5-0 record. The Hawks will get some rest and shift their focus to the Eastern Connecticut Tournament on Dec. 29 and 30.