New Paltz Men's Basketball Rallies for 69-66 Win over Whittier in Season Debut

More news about: SUNY New Paltz

REDLANDS, Calif. – The State University of New York at New Paltz men's basketball team battled to a 69-66 win over Whittier College Friday afternoon, topping the Poets, 69-66, in its opening game of the Lee Fulmer Memorial Tip-Off Classic hosted by the University of Redlands at Currier Gym.

New Paltz, which trailed 35-32 at the half, was able to rely on clutch play down the stretch, started largely by junior guard/forward Taylor Sowah (Bronx, N.Y./Miller Place) and finished off by several others after Sowah fouled out of the game with 3:02 left in regulation.

Sophomore guard David Richardson gave Whittier a 59-55 lead with 5:46 remaining after a fastbreak dunk before New Paltz started its comeback bid. Sophomore forward Alex Perlman (Yorktown Heights, N.Y./Lakeland) scored on a layup on the ensuing possession, got fouled and hit the continuation free throw to draw the Hawks within one. Senior guard Andrew Joseph (Brooklyn, N.Y./High School of Art and Design) knocked down a jumper with 4:54 left on the clock to give New Paltz its first lead since 10:24 of the first half. Junior forward Nick Demusis gave the Poets the lead back with a pair of made free throws, and Sowah knotted things up with a free throw at 4:13 of the second half.

New Paltz then relied on a Sowah bucket followed by a three-pointer by junior guard/forward R.J. Rosa (Marlboro, N.Y./Sullivan West) to claim a 66-61 edge with 2:07 to go in regulation. Demusis hoisted a trey and knocked it down on Whittier's next trip down the floor to pull within two, but sophomore forward Kevin Roach (Levittown, N.Y./MacArthur) buried a foul shot to push the margin to three. Sophomore guard Eric Jennings converted on a pair of free throws at 1:03 of the second half to slice the deficit to one before Joseph made 1-of-2 foul shots to give the Hawks a two-point advantage.

Whittier tried to milk the clock and hit a dagger-like three-pointer with little time remaining, but a three by sophomore center Ben Maynard clanked off the rim with seven seconds left. Graduate student guard Nick Taldi (Merrick, N.Y./Bellmore JFK) came up with the board to give the Hawks possession and force the Poets to foul. Taldi missed the first free throw and sank the second, and Whittier inbounded the ball and called a timeout to get an inbounds pass from the far sideline. Demusis misfired on a corner desperation three at the buzzer, and the Hawks knocked off the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) foe.

New Paltz rises to 1-0 overall and looks to complete the West Coast sweep tomorrow afternoon when it faces host Redlands at 7 p.m. (PDT). Whittier falls to 0-1 and hopes to salvage the weekend tomorrow when it challenges George Fox University at 3 p.m. (PDT).

The two teams battled for the lead early, but a 6-0 Whittier run that spanned just more than a minute gave the Poets a 19-14 lead with 9:19 left in the first half. After a three-pointer by Taldi pulled the Hawks within two, sophomore guard Eric Goedde went on a 5-0 run by himself to put Whittier on top by seven. New Paltz tied the score two times before the halftime intermission, but the Poets entered the locker room with a three-point edge.

The Hawks were unable to capture momentum in the second half, with Whittier taking a seven-point advantage on three occasions. A made free throw by freshman forward Andrew Seniuk (Wantagh, N.Y./MacArthur) and a converted layup by Sowah brought New Paltz within four with 10:36 left in the second stanza, and freshman guard Kewan Beebe (Glen Cove, N.Y./Glen Cove) buried a jumper two minutes later to cut the deficit in half. Taldi and sophomore guard Keegan Donovan (Groton, N.Y./Groton) drew the Hawks within two twice more before New Paltz began its stretch-run comeback.

New Paltz shot 45.6 percent (26-of-57) from the floor on the game, while the Poets knocked down 41.4 percent (24-of-58) of their shots. Whittier was hampered by poor shooting from long range, going just 5-of-26 (19.2 percent) from beyond the arc. The Hawks finished with a 36-34 edge on the boards and forced the Poets into 19 turnovers.

Sowah was just one point off his career-high with 15, while Taldi added 13 points. Ten of the 11 Hawks who took the floor had at least two rebounds, with Joseph posting a team-high and game-high-tying seven. Perlman drew his first career start and dished out a game-high five assists.

For Whittier, Demusis buried a team-high 14 points, while senior center Dylan Irwin and sophomore guard Eric Goedde chipped in with 13 and 11 points, respectively, coming off the bench. Sophomore forward Michael Alvarez and Irwin finished with a game-high-tying seven rebounds each, while Jennings boasted a stat line that included seven points, six steals and four assists.