Courtesy of New Paltz Sports Information Department
New Paltz, NY - Backed by a second-quarter scoring onslaught and another stout defensive performance Saturday night in the Hawk Center, the State University of New York at New Paltz women's basketball team punched its ticket back into the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
The Hawks (25-4 overall) had one of the best defensive performances of the season against a dangerous Emmanuel College (23-6) offense, but executed their game plan perfectly to cement an 80-49 rout over the Saints.
"They really did an incredible job of executing the game plan defensively. I mean really to a T, across the board," said SUNY New Paltz coach Jamie Seward. "We really wanted to take care of the basketball, so we didn't let them get out in transition. Other than one turnover late that they were able to run on that's really all they got. We wanted [Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda] to see multiple bodies every time she touched the ball. Marion did a great individual job on her. Almost all of the baskets she did score on were jump shots and to some extent we were willing to give up. We did a good job inside. There was very little easy baskets in the paint and just a really great performance defensively, and then we shot the ball really well from 3 in the first half to open up a big lead. We came out in the third quarter and couldn't make a shot, but still extended the lead because of the way we defended."
After trading baskets to open up the game, SUNY New Paltz ended the first quarter on a 5-0 run. The momentum carried into the second quarter, as the Hawks went off from the perimeter to help establish a large cushion. Lindsay Bettke was the catalyst, as the senior made all four of her attempts from behind the arc in the period.
"I think I just went into the second quarter… and just came to the realization that this is maybe possibly my last game on my home court," Bettke said. "So it just kind of clicked and I was like, I'm just going to give everything I have on the court. First quarter it kind of went back and forth a little bit, but I knew just looking at the other team's faces, if we stick to the game plan and if we just keep attacking them on offense they'll just give up."
SUNY New Paltz out-scored the Saints 28-10 in the 10 minutes before the halftime break, shooting 60 percent from 3-point range after knocking down 6-of-10 attempts. Bettke pushed the Hawks advantage to 20 after another made 3 with about two minutes to go and Taylor Howell put the finishing touches on an explosive first half by ending the quarter with five unanswered points to extend her team's lead, 48-23.
"In my 42 years I have never seen a team shoot like this, male or female," said Emmanuel coach Andy Yosinoff. "For whatever reason it took the heart out of us early and we never could get back. We've been down by 20, we've been down by a lot of points [and] I thought we could come back in the game, but it just wasn't happening."
The Hawks cooled off in the third quarter offensively, but never let down on the defensive end. Although they missed 14 shots in the period, they forced seven turnovers and limited the Saints to just five made baskets in that stretch, which helped establish a 30-point lead. Bettke officially boosted SUNY New Paltz over that threshold after laying in a transition bucket, assisted by Rachel Simon.
"As far as sustaining [the lead] it was really our defensive effort," Howell said. "There was a time we weren't hitting our shots, but our defense stopped them from getting points, so really it was even. I felt like everyone was locked in on defense. We talked about that the whole entire time. Defense is going to be first and I felt like we did that today."
The advantage was boosted to as many as 32 late in the third quarter and from there the Hawks held on to a lengthy cushion, ultimately pulling away with their 21st-straight victory.
"I think from the jump we just weren't mentally ready for this game," said Emmanuel senior guard Maddie McLaughlin. "I also think we have so many young players on this team they don't really know how much it means to have won this game and be one of the top 16 teams in the country, and have that title. As for the second quarter, I think once they started draining every 3 that they possibly pretty much took, I think that just got in our heads a lot and mentally. We just couldn't get back into the game. We still fought until the end. We never really gave up, but I just think mentally we knew that no matter what we said or what we really did it was just not our day today."
Bettke led the way offensively for SUNY New Paltz, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field, while adding four rebounds and four assists. Dietz followed with 23 points – her second-straight 20-point game – shooting an efficient 7-for-14 from the floor, including 5-for-10 from 3-point range, while also registering four rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Dietz was also the catalyst defensively, as she held Saints prolific junior guard Yuleska Ramirez-Tejeda to just 12 points in 29 minutes. As a team, the Hawks limited the Saints to 40 percent shooting from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc.
"We wanted to have multiple bodies on her, give her no driving lanes," Dietz said of Ramirez-Tejeda. "She is very athletic and can get to the rim pretty much whenever she wants to. She is very, very talented. So the game plan was to clog those driving lanes and get in her head early I guess."
The win pushes the Hawks into the Sweet 16, where they will face No. 2 nationally ranked Bowdoin College, a team SUNY New Paltz defeated during its 2017 Sweet 16 run.
"It feels really good," Bettke said. "Going into this game in the locker room I was a little nervous, because it would just be really disappointing to not get back to where we were. But now that we are back to where we were, going back to the Sweet 16 just feels amazing that we get another opportunity. We have that opportunity to go out and play in the Sweet 16 again. I really think we're going to go to the Elite 8… I honestly think we can go all the way, so I'm honestly excited about it."
"We've been saying from the beginning of the season, 'let's see how good this team is going to be,' and I feel like we're not putting any limits on ourselves," Howell added. "Like yeah, it's great to be back in the Sweet 16. That's what we wanted, but that's just a stepping stone to where we want to go. So, yeah it's great being back here but we're not done yet."