Slippery Rock men’s basketball team (16-6, 7-3 PSAC-West) dug deep in overtime to defeat California University of Pa.(9-11,4-6) 64-53, ending a two-game losing streak Saturday afternoon.
The Rock’s three contests prior to meeting with the Vulcans were decided within one or two points. They fell to Clarion University 86-87 in overtime, lost to Indiana University of Pa. 64-66 and narrowly defeated Seton Hill 72-71.
It seemed that Saturday’s game in the Morrow Field House would follow the same pattern after the game got sent into overtime.
SRU head coach Kevin Reynold’s said that the team was in a need-to-win situation heading into the game.
“We didn’t want to lose three in a row,” Reynolds said. “It was a big win. We were disappointed in the last two games with being unable to close out or get the stop. Today was good, we got the stop in regulation, were able to rebound and played well in overtime.”
Redshirt junior guard Antonio Butler led the Rock with 20 points. Butler tied the game for SRU during the final minutes of regulation with a layup and a free throw.
“Antonio made a few phenomenal plays,” Reynolds said. “We needed those out of him. He has that strength and was good on defense as well.”
After senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs fouled out of the game, SRU assistant coach Ian Grady made a few substitutions and moved guys around the court. One of those moves put Butler in the point guard position.
“Before I came here, I played at the one (point guard position) before,” Butler said. “I mainly play the wing here but I’m comfortable playing the one in coach’s offense. He has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself at that spot.”
Reynold’s had high praises for his assistant coach’s substitutions.
“Coach Grady made good moves,” Reynolds said. “We were able to get Antonio out on the smaller guys.”
Redshirt senior forward Tabari Perri scored 12 points and had 16 rebounds against the Vulcans.
Senior guard Sa-Quan Davis and junior guard Matej Delinac both scored seven points.
Redshirt sophomore guard Maxx Rynd scored his five points in overtime, helping the Rock to take away the win.
Before fouling out, Lewis-Briggs scored 10 points and eight rebounds.
Slippery Rock played aggressive in the beginning of the game. They were up 5-0 early and didn’t allow Cal-U to score until almost three minutes of play had passed.
Heading into halftime, SRU had a seven-point lead over Cal-U. The Vulcans were able to close the gap in the second half but Slippery Rock held their ground defensively, forcing the game into overtime.
With close games seeming to become an unwanted pattern, Reynolds said the team will continue to focus on not fouling.
“We’ve been fouling too much,” Reynolds said. “We tried to emphasize not fouling and we’ve been getting over 20 a game lately. That’s why these games are closer than they should be. We keep putting them on the line.”
The Rock held Cal-U to 36 percent from the field and 25 from the 3-point range. The Vulcans made 13 of 22 shots from the free throw line.
SRU finished with a 37 percent from the field and 18 percent from the 3-point range. They sank 21 of 26 free throws.
Slippery Rock plays Gannon University Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. the Hammermill Center. The two are currently tied for third place in the PSAC-West.