Most of the time we hear the old sports cliché that it’s all about getting the victory, but that isn’t always the most important thing to take away from a game.
The Slippery Rock University basketball team traveled to its “big brother” school, the University of Michigan last Friday and took a 100-62 loss at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, but Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds said that having the opportunity to play on such a big stage and in that atmosphere is something the team is grateful for.
“It’s actually really refreshing where you see a big school like Michigan, who has everything, who reaches out to a school like Slippery Rock, and kind of — I guess the best word to use is ‘adopt’ us — as a little brother,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s great for us to have that affiliation, and it’s nice for Michigan to embrace it. We don’t get this opportunity to play in this type of arena and in this type of atmosphere, and we’re very thankful.”
Michigan is the No. 5 ranked team in Division I basketball and many people who don’t know the history between the two programs must have had a confused look on their face to see SRU playing against a top-tier Division I opponent.
The history between the two programs started in 1959 when Michigan started announcing SRU football scores at halftime of their football games, and the Rock even played a game in Michigan against Shippensburg in 1979.
The Michigan fans, who usually love hearing the scores of Slippery Rock games, weren’t rooting for SRU on Friday at the Crisler Arena as the Wolverines slowly opened the gap between the two teams.
The Rock kept the score close for the first eight minutes of the game and held a 15-14 lead with 13:16 left in the first half.
The Wolverines put together a six point run to take the lead back and never relinquished it after that point. Michigan opened up an eight point lead a few minutes later and then extended it to 14 by the half.
Michigan head coach John Beilein said that he wasn’t expecting it to be an easy victory and knew that SRU was capable of sticking in the game early on.
“We knew they were going to score the ball on us,” Beilein said. “They are experienced guys who know how to play. They kept it close early on but we knew if we could get runs and stops that we’d be able to pull away.”
One of the main components in Michigan’s success was junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who scored his 1,000th career point on the way to 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Green and White.
Sophomore guard Trey Burke scored 21 points, while freshman forward Glenn Robinson III neared a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The leading scorer for SRU was senior forward Devin Taylor who also approached a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. Senior center Luiz Santos contributed 12 points and senior guard Darious Clark added 11.
Coach Beilein said that he likes Slippery Rock’s chances to be successful this season, and after opening with a 70-48 victory against Ohio Valley, it seems that he has some merit in his statement.
“I was just telling Kevin [Reynolds] I really like the way his team plays,” he said. “I think they have a great chance to be successful. I think you could see early in the game that they can compete, but when we got it going they weren’t able to hang with what our transition game accomplished.”
The Rock has two more non-conference games on their schedule against La Roche College on Monday at 7 p.m., which will be the home opener, and next Saturday at Lake Erie College at 3 p.m. SRU’s first PSAC match will be after Thanksgiving break on Dec. 1 at Bloomsburg University.
Senior John Bayardelle said playing on the big stage at Michigan will help the team prepare for the rest of the season.
“Playing Michigan was a great learning experience for our team because we saw what it took to play at a high level,” Bayardelle said. “We admired their execution, communication, and poise. We plan to implement these techniques into our own system this season.”