|Trevor Norton is one of several Hawks thriving in Hartwick's aggressive, up-tempo system.
Photo by Gerry Raymonda
Todd McGuinness has one simple message he wants his players to remember during games: If you're open, shoot it.
His Hartwick players have embraced that directive, loud and clear, and it's propelled the Hawks (13-6, 8-2) to the second-best record in the Empire 8 behind Nazareth (13-6, 9-1).
By any statistical measure, Hartwick has been one of the most consistently dangerous teams from three-point range across the country this season. The Hawks rank fifth nationally in three-pointers per game (11.1), sixth in total three-pointers (211), 16th in three-pointers attempted (544) and 31st in three-point percentage (38.8). Their scoring average of 85.4 points per game ranks 35th.
"We try to get layups or threes," McGuinness said. "That's what we try to get. I think a three early in the shot clock might be the best shot we can get. When they go in, I look like a genius. When they don't, maybe not so much."
More often than not, they've gone in this season. That was especially true in a 109-50 win against Utica last Wednesday, when the Hawks drained 24 of their 45 attempts from three-point range to break the previous program record of 20. And that was without senior guard and leading scorer Trevor Norton, who was nursing a minor knee injury. Junior forward Justin Pratt set a new program record by sinking 11 baskets from downtown, breaking the previous mark of nine that he shared with Greg Bonczkowski.
"It seemed like every shot we put up was going in," Norton said.
Hartwick has no shortage of shooters, and that's by design. McGuinness emphasizes shooting ability and floor spacing, so he looks for those traits during recruiting. Norton, now in his second year at Hartwick after transferring from Ursinus, still leads the team in three-pointers made (58) and attempted (142), despite missing two games.
But Pratt, junior point guard Joey Lufkin, freshman guard Brandon LaForest, sophomore forward Jake Sinicki and senior guard Glenn Gavan are all dangerous, too. All six players have hit at least 14 shots from three-point range and all but one are shooting at least 39 percent. Senior center Matt Wilson, at an imposing 6-9 and 245 pounds, helps open additional space on the perimeter by occupying the opposition's attention in the paint.
"I'd rather look out there and say, 'OK, we have four guys that can make a shot,' instead of looking out there and saying, 'We have one guy that can make a shot and four guys that can play defense,'" McGuinness said.
Hartwick plays at a fast pace, but McGuinness doesn't want to always sacrifice defense for scoring opportunities. Instead of playing at a breakneck speed with constant pressing on defense, the goal is force a missed shot -- ideally a mid-to-long range two-pointer -- and get out in transition, where the Hawks excel on offense.
Hartwick's perimeter players have a knack for finding the three-point line, particularly in transition. McGuinness encourages that.
"He gives us a lot of freedom in the fact that he lets us play," Norton said.
In the six previous seasons under McGuinness' direction, the Hawks have reached the NCAA tournament three times and had winning records four times. That consistent success, plus the up-tempo philosophy on offense, helped draw Norton to the small private school in Oneonta, N.Y. But the selfless attitude of the players, all of whom welcomed him despite knowing it may affect their individual minutes, has impacted him the most.
"It's a great culture of just a team aspect here," Norton said. "All the guys get along and now I feel like I've made some lifelong friends here."
It's the type of camaraderie that's helped turn a simple practice drill into a friendly competition. The "Valpo," named in honor of Valparaiso University, is a timed three-point shooting drill. One shooter, one rebounder, that's it. The goal? Depending on the version of the drill, it's either to sink 50 shots as quickly as possible, or to hit as many shots as possible in five minutes. Results and records vary, depending on the source, but to the best of McGuinness' knowledge, Norton holds the 50-shot mark by finishing in 3:20. Norton believes he holds the five-minute mark with 71 shots made. Check back after future practices, as those are sure to change.
McGuinness and his staff have also taken advantage of Synergy Sports Technology, a web-based service that creates a deeper analytical look at the game. With Synergy, McGuinness is able to analyze everything from shot charts to specific strengths and weaknesses based on certain situations. The Hawks average 1.018 points per possession, the 11th-highest total among Division III teams using Synergy. It's hardly a coincidence that as analytics have grown across the basketball world, from the NBA to Division III colleges, so too has the reliance on the three-point shot.
Hartwick sits just one game back of Nazareth in the Empire 8 standings, but five of its final six games are on the road, including a regular season-ending back-to-back with St. John Fisher and Ithaca. Much is left to be decided at this point, but Hartwick's goals of hosting the Empire 8 tournament and returning to the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence both remain attainable.
And if the Hawks ultimately come up short, you can be sure they'll go down in the same manner they win -- shooting until the end.
"When we do lose," McGuinness said, "it's at least exciting."
Plattsburgh State surges ahead in SUNYAC race
A weekend road sweep of Buffalo State and Fredonia helped Plattsburgh State open up a 2.5-game lead in the SUNYAC standings entering action Tuesday night. The Cardinals (15-3, 10-1) have now won three straight and nine of 10 since the calendar turned over to 2016.
Senior guard Kyle Richardson continues to be a driving force this season. He scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as Plattsburgh State held on for a 94-92 win over Buffalo State on Friday. Richardson also scored 20 points in Saturday's 89-75 win against Fredonia. In 17 games this season, he's averaging 19.9 points and 11 rebounds per game, totals that lead the team rank third and first, respectively, in the SUNYAC.
Plattsburgh State's upcoming schedule also works in its favor. The Cardinals open a five-game homestand Friday night against Oneonta State, followed by a matchup with New Paltz State.
Tight races define the Liberty League
Have you seen the standings in the Liberty League recently, particularly on the men's side? If not, allow us to summarize for you: Virtually everyone is still alive. Think that's an exaggeration? Think again.
As of Tuesday, just two games separate the top team in the conference standings (St. Lawrence) from the seventh-ranked team (Clarkson) on the men's side. St. Lawrence (7-3 LL) is followed by RIT (6-4) and Skidmore (7-5). After that, Vassar, Hobart, Union and Clarkson all sit at 5-5. RPI and Bard are 3-6 and 3-8 in conference, respectively.
The women's race is a bit more top-heavy, but still hotly-contested. Clarkson, RIT and Union sit atop the standings at 8-2. St. Lawrence (6-4), William Smith (6-4) and Skidmore (6-6) remain in the mix, while Vassar (3-7), RPI (1-8) and Bard (0-11) have fallen behind.
The St. Lawrence men still have games remaining against RIT and Skidmore. The Clarkson women still have matchups against RIT and Union. In other words, expect things to get even more interesting before there's any clarity.
Top 25 roundup: Lancaster Bible continues climb
Another week, another bump in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll rankings for the Lancaster Bible men.
The Chargers won twice over the weekend to improve to 17-0 overall, and moved up three spots to No. 15. Plattsburgh State broke into the rankings at No. 24, while NYU continued to receive votes despite falling out of the top 25.
The NYU women moved up one spot to No. 7, while UAA rival Rochester slipped six spots to No. 13. St. John Fisher continued to receive votes.
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