The Slippery Rock men’s basketball team fell into familiar territory with another game being decided with just a few points as they fell 52-56 to the Mercyhurst Lakers Wednesday night.
The decision dropped the Rock’s record to 17-8 (8-5 PSAC-West) and improved the Lakers to 13-9(9-3 PSAC-West).
In the first half of the game, junior forward Kelvin Dixon and redshirt junior guard Antonio Butler made shots at the end of the shot clock to set SRU up 26-25 over Mercyhurst with just under three minutes remaining.
Junior Matej Delinac made a free throw shot to put the Rock up 27-25 before Mercyhurst’s Andy Hoying took the rebound down the court to tie the game.
Butler sank a shot with 1:04 remaining to put Slippery Rock ahead 29-27 at the half.
Slippery Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds noticed an improvement in Mercyhurst’s play from the first time the two met this season. SRU defeated the Lakers 64-43 at home Jan. 18.
“They held the ball on offense, causing us to have to play defense longer,” Reynolds said. “They also rebounded at the same level as us which doesn’t happen too often. Paul Bilbo (Mercyhurst) played on the inside and had a phenomenal game against us.”
Bilbo scored 12 points against SRU, including six from the line.
Senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs scored 15 points for the Green and White. Butler added 10 points and senior Josh Martin scored seven.
Redshirt senior forward Tabari Perry is typically one of the Rock’s top scorers but only managed to score five points Wednesday night.
Reynolds admitted that Perry wasn’t having one of his better games but didn’t feel the team’s overall performance suffered because of it.
“Tabari was in foul trouble most of the time,” Reynold said. “We can’t expect everyone to play with their ‘A-game’ every time. It’s a team game and other guys need to step up when that happens and some of our guys did.”
Turnovers played a big part in the game. Slippery Rock turned the ball over 16 times compared the Merchurst’s eight.
“It’s been the ongoing problem,” Reynolds said. “It’s tough to get in an offensive flow when you turn the ball over 16 times. That played a big part in our loss.”
The Lakers were able to pick up 14 points off the turnovers. SRU added 10.
The PSAC match remained close throughout the entire game, with the largest lead going to Mercyhurst at six points in the second half.
Fouls also hurt Slippery Rock as they tried to gain momentum against Mercyhurst.
SRU had 21 personal fouls against the Lakers. Mercyhurst capitalized on a few of the foul opportunities, making 62.5 percent (15 of 24) of their free throw shots.
“Taking the fouls in the second half was big,” Reynolds said. “A lot of it comes down to frustration plays. We need to communicate better.”
Indiana University of Pa. defeated California University of Pa. 85-47 and Gannon University defeated Edinboro University 71-54 Wednesday night to keep the PSAC-West standings the same.
IUP is in first, Gannon in second, Mercyhurst in third and SRU in fourth. All four teams have secured spots in the conference tournament.
Slippery Rock has three remaining PSAC-West games that they can use to adjust their seed in the PSAC-West, including the final regular season game at home against IUP.
The Rock will play Edinboro (9-13, 2-10 PSAC-West) Wednesday Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Morrow Field House.