The Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team ended their season on Tuesday night with a 77-69 loss to Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference quarterfinal action.
The Rock finished the season with a 17-10 final record. The Lakers won two of three games against the Rock this season, and took a 20-19 lead in the all-time series between the two teams.
Senior guard Devin Taylor scored a team-high 18 points and had eight rebounds in his final collegiate game wearing a Rock uniform.
Senior guard Torrance Timothy added 13 points and junior guard Aubin Reeves contributed 12 points.
Junior forward Tabari Perry put up nine points and snagged nine rebounds and junior center Luiz Santos added eight points and seven rebounds on Tuesday night.
SRU finished the game with a 43 percent (29-68) shooting effort, 27 percent (7-26) of 3-pointers, and 50 percent (4-8) free throws.
The Rock committed 20 turnovers throughout the game, only one short of their season-high total.
SRU outrebounded Mercyhurst with a 43-32 rebounding advantage, marking the 23rd out of 27 games that the Green and White has outrebounded their opponents.
Slippery Rock looked very strong and led for the entire first half, taking a 32-29 lead at halftime, after a 6-0 Mercyhurst run.
Reeves scored eight first-half points, and Taylor had seven.
Freshman Chaquille Pratt scored six points in the first half. However, he did not score in the second half.
The Rock had a slim 40-36 lead after four minutes of second half play before the Lakers scored eight unanswered points to take a 44-40 lead with less than 15 minutes left to play.
Mercyhurst held the game from that point and led by a large 14 point margin, 64-50, with four minutes remaining in the game.
SRU fought back and cut the deficit to five points, 68-63, with 1:45 left in the game, but it wasn’t quite enough for them to overcome the Lakers.
Taylor said that miscommunication led to the downfall of the team during the second half.
“Communication and turnovers ultimately led to the loss for us,” Taylor said. “When you don’t communicate and you don’t take care of the ball, it’s hard to win.”
Senior guard Jon Valeriano agreed with Taylor, saying that communication errors led to the downfall of the Rock.
“Too many defensive breakdowns and lapses due to our miscommunication really hurt us during the second half,” Valeriano said.
This year marked the third time in four seasons that head coach Kevin Reynolds and his Rock squad have made it to the PSAC tournament.
Before this season, the Rock has not qualified for the PSAC tournament in back-to-back seasons since 1991, under coach Bob Barlettt.
SRU will say goodbye to five Rock seniors – Taylor, Timothy, Valeriano, John Bossle, and Tommy Kelly.
Kelly was the only fourth-year player in the group. The other four seniors came to SRU as transfers from other colleges and universities.
Junior guard John Bayardelle said he’s going to miss the seniors and wishes them the best.
“I’m close to all the seniors and I’m going to miss every last one of them,” Bayardelle said. “A friend is a brother your heart chooses, and I consider all five guys my brothers.”
Mercyhurst will play East Stroudsburg University in tonight’s PSAC semifinal game at West Chester University.
The championship game is set for tomorrow.
On Wednesday, Taylor earned a spot on the All-PSAC-West first team and Perry was selected as a second-team selection.
Voting for the All-PSAC honors is determined by the division’s head coaches.
Taylor was the leading rebounder in the conference this season, averaging 9.8 boards per game.
He also ranked 12th among all NCAA Division II players in rebounding.
He led SRU in scoring, with an average of 13.5 points per game. Taylor had an impressive 11 “double-double” games this season.
He scored 10 or more points in 18 of the Rock’s 27 game schedule this season and had 10 or more rebounds in 15 games.
Perry was the Rock’s No. 2 rebounder this year, averaging 7.0 per game and the team’s third leading scorer with 9.5 per game.
He scored a season-high 22 points back on Jan. 11 against Lock Haven University, and had 12 rebounds on Jan. 25 against Gannon University.
Saturday, the Rock won their final regular-season game with an 87-66 victory over Clarion University, which secured them a spot in the PSAC tournament.
Taylor led SRU with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Timothy had 15 points and Kelly added 14 points. Reeves had 11 points and seven assists.
In addition, Valeriano added nine points and Santos had seven points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks Saturday. Perry contributed seven points and eight rebounds.
On the season, the Green and White won 11 of 15 home games this winter.
The Rock split their road record this season and went 6-6 away from home.