By Monica D’Ippolito
FREDONIA — Backed by a 60-point second half, the State University of New York at New Paltz came away with a 96-87 win over hosting Fredonia Saturday.
The Hawks improved to 10-2 overall and 4-1 in the SUNYAC with the win after coming back from as many as 11 down, which came late in the first half. RJ Meyers-Turner provided important minutes to help dig SUNY New Paltz out of the deficit, scoring six points in the final 90 seconds to bring the score down to 43-37 Blue Devils at the break.
Starting off the second half hot thanks to quick buckets by Rylan Blondo and A.J. Knight, the Hawks quickly erased the deficit and tied the score at 43-all two minutes into the final period. Blondo officially gave his team the first lead of the half with a fast-break layup facilitated by Knight who picked up the defensive board and quickly got the ball up the floor to Blondo.
The game stayed tight in the following five minutes of play with four different lead changes and the score tied twice with Fredonia getting up by six with just less than eight minutes to play. Sean St. Lucia got his team back in late, staying aggressive and earning back-to-back trips to the foul line to push the Hawks ahead by one at 73-72 with 5:45 left. SUNY New Paltz never trailed from then on, as Knight, a Fredonia transfer, carried his team to the win.
He picked the pocket of Blue Devils’ Malik Jemison to earn the steal then went the full length of the court for the score, earning the bucket and foul for the traditional three-point play. He then hit arguably the biggest bucket of the game with just less than five minutes to go, catching a swishing on a kick out by Alex Krupinski off an offensive board to establish a seven-point cushion for the Hawks.
SUNY New Paltz maintained a comfortable lead in the final minutes, keeping the Blue Devils at bay with Krupinski hitting a deflating triple for the home team to get the Hawks in front by nine with less than two minutes left. Knight and Blondo then iced the game from the charity stripe with Fredonia forced to foul down the stretch to stop the clock. The duo hit on all eight attempts in the final 30 seconds to solidify the 96-87 win.
Knight was the catalyst in a career game against his former team, as he finished with a career and game-high 30 points on 8-for-12 shooting including 5-for-6 from 3-point range and a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line, while adding a team-leading five steals, three assists and two rebounds. Kobe Bogart followed with 19 points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal while Blondo registering 15 points and five rebounds. Krupinski rounded out the scoring, finishing with 11 points, four rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes off the bench.
The Hawks head back to New Paltz for their next contest, hosting No. 10 nationally ranked SUNY Oswego in the Hawk Center at 7:30 p.m. Their originally scheduled game Saturday against Buffalo State was postponed due to a pending winter storm in the area.