Taking advantage of a wide-open shot, Clarion junior Marques Jones sank a three-point shot with 1.4 seconds remaining in overtime to upset the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team 87-86 Wednesday night in a Pennsyvania State Athletic Conference match-up.
The loss drops SRU’s overall record to 15-6 (6-3 PSAC-West) while Clarion improved to 4-13 overall (2-7 PSAC-West).
In their first meeting of the season, the Green and White defeated the Golden Eagles 79-65.
Slippery Rock is now in a tie for third place with Gannon University while Indiana University of Pa. and Mercyhurst sit tied for first.
Slippery Rock was leading Clarion 39-31 heading into the half but struggled to contain the Golden Eagles the remainder of the game.
Redshirt senior Tabari Perry, who contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Rock, said that the team must improve their defense before they face California University of Pa. this Saturday.
“We can’t close out the second half because we keep breaking down defensively late in the game,” Perry said. “We also keep giving up offensive rebounds.”
The game was sent into overtime with the score 71-71 after Clarion’s Mike Kromka missed a free throw with 2.7 seconds remaining.
Kronka scored 26 points and earned 15 rebounds while Jones hit 23 points.
The Golden Eagles came out aggressive in overtime and were the first to score.
SRU senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs answered the effort, shaking off an attempted block from Clarion.
Momentum swung back and forth throughout the overtime period, keeping the game within three points at all times.
With 25.9 seconds remaining, Slippery Rock held the lead 84-81.
SRU’s crowd cheered on their team as Queen’s “We Will Rock You” played during a timeout.
The cheers turned into nerves as Clarion sank a shot and made the score 84-83 with 9.4 seconds remaining.
In an attempt to get the ball back, the Golden Eagles fouled Lewis-Briggs.
Lewis-Briggs made both shots to put the Rock up 86-83.
Head coach Kevin Reynolds made a strategic decision to foul Clarion and send them to the free throw line.
This was done in hopes of preventing the Golden Eagles from going for a three-point shot and tying the game.
“We were trying to play to percentages,” Reynolds said. “That was my decision as a coach and obviously that ended up being a poor decision because they made one of two, we failed to rebound and then they hit the three to win the game. We should’ve just played it out.”
Lewis-Briggs led the Rock’s offensive effort with a total of 27 points, 25 of which came in the second-half (nine in OT).
Junior forward Kelvin Dixon added 12 points and 10 rebounds, senior guard Josh Martin scored 11 points and redshirt junior guard Antonio Butler scored eight points.
Reynold’s contributed the Green and White’s less-aggressive second half performance to a combination of his coaching mistakes and the other team’s ability to adjust their style of play.
The past three games have been decided in the final moments, including last Saturday’s loss to IUP 64-66 and January 22’s win overSeton Hill 72-71.
“We haven’t played as well (in the second half),” Reynolds said. “It’s been a lot of bad plays by me. We haven’t been making the adjustments we should and (our opponents) are.”
In the second half, Clarion hit 41.7% (5/12) of their three-point shots while SRU was 0-3. Slippery Rock also failed to make a three-point shot in overtime (0-2), while the Golden Eagles made two, including the game-winner.
Slippery Rock held the advantage in rebounds 45-37 and in turnovers 8-7.
“The guys played good enough to win,” Reynolds said. “We got caught in a trap game tonight but it was a bad job from me. I made a bad decision. We should’ve won.”
SRU will look to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday when they face the Cal-U Vulcans.
“We have to turn it around,” Reynolds said. “We have to play better, we have to do better and there’s no way around that.”
The Vulcans are 9-10 overall, 4-5 in the PSAC-West, and are heading to SRU off a 62-59 win over Gannon.
Slippery Rock faces California University of Pa. at home Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Morrow Field House.