Rock rebounds with two PSAC wins
Junior guard Jon Valeriano scored 17 points, including five 3-pointers on Wednesday night to lead the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team to a 72-59 win over PSAC rival, Lock Haven University.
The win marked the second consecutive win for the Rock and the ninth victory in the last 12 games. SRU improved to 14-7 overall and 11-6 in conference action. Lock Haven fell to 0-20 overall and 0-17 in the PSAC, suffering their 39th consecutive loss.
The top four teams in the PSAC-West standings at the end of the regular season will earn spots in the conference tournament. Indiana (17-4, 14-3) remains atop the standings and Mercyhurst (15-6, 13-4) is in second.
In addition to the Wednesday victory, a Clarion loss to Mercyhurstalso on Wednesday night moved the Rock into third place in the division standings, holding a one-game advantage over California (13-10, 10-7) and Clarion (14-9, 10-7).
Senior center Luiz Santos tallied 12 points and snagged nine rebounds, freshman forward Chaquille Pratt added 12 points and seven rebounds, and junior John Bayardelle scored 10 points to assist Valeriano’s 17-point effort.
Junior forward Tabari Perry and senior guard Devin Taylor each contributed eight points apiece. Perry also had seven rebounds and Valeriano had four assists for the Rock.
Taylor now has scored 10 or more points in 13 games this season, Valeriano recorded his 12th double-digit scoring total, and Perry has 11 games with double-digit scoring this season.
The Green and White got off to a strong start by scoring the first five points of the first half. The Rock maintained the lead for the remainder of the half and took a 15-point, 44-29, lead heading into intermission.
In the second half, SRU held a pair of 21-point leads, including a 72-51 advantage with 3:30 left in the game, before cruising to the victory.
The Rock finished the game making 50 percent (29-58) of their field-goal attempts, 36 percent (9-25) of their 3-point shots, and 71 percent (5-7) of free throw attempts. SRU also held a 41-21 advantage over Lock Haven in rebounding. Despite being out-boarded in the previous two games last week, the Rock has now outrebounded their opponents in 18 of 21 games this season.
Valeriano says that if the team plays the style of game they’re known for playing, they will definitely come out on top.
“We really just need to play our game, which is defend and rebound, and all the rest will fall into place,” Valeriano said. “As a team, our ultimate goal is to win every game here on out, and we are very capable of doing so.”
Wednesday’s game was Kevin Reynolds’ 71st victory in four seasons as The Rock’s head coach.
The top four teams in the PSAC-West standings at the end of the regular season will earn spots in the conference tournament.
Indiana (17-4, 14-3) remains atop the standings and Mercyhurst (15-6, 13-4) is in second.
Last Saturday, Santos earned his third “double-double” of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead Slippery Rock to 73-71 overtime victory over Mercyhurst University.
Taylor added 14 points and nine rebounds, Perry had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Valeriano contributed 10 points.
The game went back and forth, having the lead change hands 12 times and the score tied on six occasions.
SRU scored 12 of the last 16 first-half points to head into intermission with a 38-35 advantage over the Lakers.
Mercyhurst opened up the second half with a 6-1 run in the first three minutes to take a 41-39 lead, before Taylor hit a 3-pointer to put SRU back in the lead.
The Rock would never surrender the lead for the remainder of the game, but Mercyhurst tied the game on four occasions in the final six minutes of regulation play.
The game was tied 65-65 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation time.
SRU scored the first three points in overtime and with a free throw by Taylor and Valeriano in the final 30 seconds, The Rock secured the overtime victory over the Lakers.
The Green and White made 43 percent (26-61) of field goal attempts, 59 percent (10-17) from 3-point range, and 58 percent (11-19) from the foul line.
The Rock also held a 43-36 rebounding advantage over the Lakers.
Santos’ “double-double” was his second against Mercyhurst this season. He had ten points and ten rebounds in the 64-62 loss to the Lakers back on Jan. 14.
The win on Saturday gave the Rock a split in the season series with Mercyhurst for the second season in a row and evened their all-time series record at 19-19.
Bayardelle says that better communication on the court in the last two games has led to their success.
“Coach Reynolds has been stressing our communication and execution lately,” Bayardelle said. “We’ve done a much better job with that and that’s why I think we won. I believe we have the best program in the PSAC and if we stay true to our system, we can become something special.”
The Rock will travel to Edinboro University tomorrow for a 4 p.m. PSAC-West matchup before returning home to host Californina in an 8 p.m. game Feb. 15.