Eli Ruiz | Democrat
SUNY Sullivan sophomore foward Davon Sylvester fights his way to the basket during Saturday's season-opening loss to Lincoln College of New England.
Lincoln logs upset win over SUNY Sullivan
Story by Eli Ruiz
LOCH SHELDRAKE November 5, 2013 Ranked second in the nation and going up against a school that’s only had a basketball program for five years, and according to Lincoln College of New England head coach Preston Beverly, doesn’t even have a gym to call its own, it could have been easy for the perennial powerhouse SUNY Sullivan Generals to underestimate their fledgling foe.
And it appears they might have let their guard down Saturday afternoon in “The Bunker” at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse, dropping a 78-77 thriller in the opening game of the season.
The Generals with a new coaching staff and some fresh faces on the court led almost the entire way. That is until Lincoln’s Jaylen David sank free throws with just two seconds left to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game and the upset victory.
“We’re a young program and we’re still growing,” said Beverly. “This is really the stage we want to be on, which is why I called [SUNY Sullivan athletic director Chris DePew] to schedule this game. I wanted to see where we are right now as a team. We’re scrappy and I think you saw some of that out there.”
“We just let them hang in it the entire game,” said the Generals’ first-year coach Brent Wilson. “We let them hang in and they made us pay.”
The Generals opened an early eight-point lead after a three-pointer from sophomore transfer Keron Briggs just a minute-and-a-half into the first half.
In fact, Sullivan took a 10, 11 and even a 14-point lead at one point in the first half. Briggs raced the distance of the court, snaking his way past two defenders down low for an acrobatic layup, sending the Generals into the locker room with a 47-38 half-time lead.
But the leads and a defense that forced 17 turnovers just couldn’t put away a pesky Wildcats squad that clawed its way back into the game behind David (17 points) and Jordan Taylor (18 points), time and time again. A 10-3 Wildcats’ run in the final minutes of the game left them just one point down in the final seconds.
That’s when David drove to the basket and got fouled.
A raucous crowd tried its best to make David miss at least one of those final free- throws.
“The noise didn’t really affect me,” said David. “I honestly tuned it out and didn’t hear anything. I just focused on that rim.”
“It was tough and we just didn’t put a foot on them and keep them down,” said Briggs. “Then we just didn’t press them like we should have in the last minutes [of the game]. We were lacking today and we’ll be working on what we were lacking in practice tomorrow.
“We’ve got new players everyone is new. But we’re gonna come together and get better. Offensive rebounds killed us tonight.”
Indeed, as the Generals allowed an aggressive Lincoln College squad nearly a 20- board advantage, and that was just on the defensive glass: “I think we gave up like 15 offensive rebounds,” said Briggs. “That’s huge!”
“They were just attacking the rim, and we just weren’t rebounding like we usually do,” offered returning forward Gerald McClease. “We were taking decent leads, but we’d get out of our game and start taking too many outside shots.”
The Generals also struggled from outside Saturday, going 4 for 23 from beyond the arc, and missing all seven of their second-half tries.
Asked about the Generals’ new head coach, who DePew lured back to the northeast from Division I University of North Dakota back in June, Briggs said, “He’s a real cool guy. He’s a lot of fun, but when it’s time for business it’s time for business. He really stresses defense in practice and we didn’t play very good D there in the end. It’s what he wants us to play first defense.”
“We just didn’t pull away today and take a lead where we could feel comfortable,” explained Wilson. “We just didn’t execute great in the stretch, but the biggest thing is that it’s game one, day one and we’ve got a lot to improve on. I hate to learn from a loss, but we will learn and we will get better.
“I told them after the game, a man’s character is tested in adverse times. So what are we going to do now? Are we going to fold, or are we going to come back and fight?’”
That fight will take place tonight when the Generals open their Mid-Hudson Conference schedule at SUNY Ulster.