NEW PALTZ — The State University of New York at New Paltz stymied a late comeback by visiting Fredonia State Saturday, backed by a double-double outing by junior guard Rylan Blondo to earn a comfortable 81-67 win in the Hawk Center.
The Hawks (10-8 overall, 8-4 SUNYAC) built a double-figure cushion early on in the first half and held onto the advantage the rest of the way. However, after building a difference as big as 18 in the final 20 minutes, the Blue Devils came back to cut the advantage down to three midway through the second half. Blondo and senior guard Brandon Scott helped limit the damage down the stretch, as SUNY New Paltz outscored Fredonia 18-7 in the final 10 minutes to clinch its eighth SUNYAC win of the season and the series sweep of the Blue Devils.
“They cut it close and they came back into the game,” Blondo said. “We just kept composure. No one panicked and we kept our cool. We just kept making the right plays. We hit a lot of huge shots to keep the run up and we just kept our energy. We didn’t pout, we didn’t worry, we didn’t panic, we just kept making the right plays and we got the lead back up to where we wanted it to be.”
The Hawks established a 13-point lead just five minutes into the game thanks to a bucket in the paint by Tyreik Frazier. After the Blue Devils worked the hole to nine, Frazier came up with a block on the defensive end and benefited with a trip to the foul line on the offensive side where he re-upped the double-digit cushion with 11:30 to go.
Fredonia continued working to get within six less than a minute later before Dakoda Smith swung momentum with an emphatic two-handed slam, which ignited the home crowed and bench that led to a 16-4 run. Jonah Bevecqua added on with a straight-away 3 from the top of the arc and hit another five minutes later in the same spot off an assist by RJ Meyers-Turner to push the Hawks up, 32-20 with six minutes left. Blondo gave SUNY New Paltz its largest lead of the half at 14 following a finish in the paint, taking advantage of a steal by Lucas Seyoum on the defensive end.
Fredonia chipped away in the final two minutes though and brought the score to 44-35 until Scott hit a huge 3 to lift his team to a nine-point lead at halftime.
Like to open up the game, the Hawks owned the first five minutes of the half. Seyoum hit back-to-back 3’s with Blondo capping the stretch with a steal and finish on the break off an assist from Scott with 15 minutes to go that pushed the score, 63-45.
A timeout by the Blue Devils ensued and within the following six minutes they countered with a 15-point run. Meyers-Turner finally ended the scoreless drought for the Hawks on a much-needed swish from the perimeter with Blondo and Scott stepping up to facilitate a 11-0 stretch for SUNY New Paltz.
On the next possession, Blondo stripped Fredonia’s My’kell Kaigler for the steal and laid in two in transition. Scott then connected from behind the arc off an assist by Meyers-Turner and after a defensive stop, Blondo pulled down a defensive board and went coast-to-coast for the driving finish, establishing a 13-point cushion with nine minutes remaining. The run proved pivotal as the Hawks held the comfortable lead for the remainder of the game, getting stops on the defensive end and limiting the Blue Devils to just seven points to close out with the win.
Blondo registered his first double-double of the season, ending with 20 points on 9-for-18 shooting with 12 rebounds and a season-high seven assists with two blocks and three steals. Scott followed with 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, while Seyoum and Bevacqua each ended with 12 points apiece. Frazier chipped in with eight points, eight rebounds and a game-high five blocks
“In crunch time I’ve got to bring it, bring the energy because my teammates see me and I am a leader,” Blondo said. “I’ve got to show that I’m into it, that I want every possession, play hard every possession and that’s what I did today, and we got the win.”
SUNY New Paltz’s SUNYAC play continues on the road next weekend for a tough weekend against some of the top teams in the league in SUNY Cortland and nationally ranked Oswego State, as the Hawks hope to up their conference standings with playoff implications on the line.
“Another huge weekend coming,” Blondo added. “We have like six games left and we know every game is preparing for playoffs, so we have to take every game one at a time and just carry each game at a time and finish this season strong so we can get ready for playoffs with the right confidence and motive.”