Strategic substitutions and a fast-paced second half performance allowed the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team (18-8, 9-5 PSAC-West) to shut down Edinboro University (9-16, 2-13 PSAC-West) 79-66 Wednesday night.
The conference win kept SRU in the tournament’s fourth seed and moves them within one win of securing a home playoff game.
The top-four seeds in the conference remained the same after Gannon University (1) defeated Clarion University (8) and Indiana University of Pa. (2) defeated Mercyhurst University (3) Wednesday night.
Slippery Rock has the potential to improve their rankings with two conference games remaining in the regular season.
“We just need to take care of our business,” head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “18-8 is pretty good but it’s not where we want to be. Seton Hill is good and we only beat them by one point last time. It’s paramount that we win that game.”
The Rock opened the game with a three-point shot from senior guard Josh Martin but the Fighting Scots took the lead for the remainder of the half.
The score came within a single point after Martin made a free throw with 10:44 remaining. Edinboro took off on a 12-2 run to get their largest lead (11) of the half. SRU made a few key defensive rebounds and moved players around to bring the score within one point again with 3:11 remaining.
Redshirt sophomore guard Maxx Rynd tightened the score to 34-35 with a three-point shot. Edinboro answered immediately with a three of their own from Jonny Marsh. The Fighting Scots held the lead 40-35 heading into the half.
“They’re (Edinboro) more athletic than us,” Reynolds said. “They had good coaching moves and it took me longer to adjust. We had to put our best athletes on the court to match their players.”
Reynold’s relied on sophomore center Cornelius Brown to help intensify the team’s play in the second half.
“We had to get bigger,” Reynolds said. “We moved Cornelius in at five (center), Maurice to four (power forward) and Tabari to three (small forward). We also had Antonio, Josh and Maxx out there. It was a good group of six guys, they really guarded and came together.”
Slippery Rock played a fast second half, scoring 44 points and holding Edinboro to 26 points.
“I think it was our intensity that made a difference,” sophomore center Cornelius Brown said. “We were looking to get stops, the bench got into it and the crowd got back into it. That intensity pushed us to get back in it the second half.”
Redshirt junior guard Antonio Butler and redshirt senior forward Tabari Perry each scored 17 points. Senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs with 15 points and Martin with 10.
“I know coming into a game that I’m here to play my role,” Brown said. “When coach calls my number, I just need to make sure I’m ready and use those minutes like I was able to do tonight.”
Up until Wednesday night, Brown averaged five minutes per game. He played 20 minutes against Edinboro and scored eight points.
“It’s not about looking forward to next game and wondering if I’m going to play more because I played good this game,” Brown said. “I just want to come in, play my role and help the team win.”
Slippery Rock went on a 23-7 run to start the second half and took a lead that they would never give back.
“We’ve been conditioning the hell out of them because mental errors have been too much,” Reynolds said. “That’s what hurt us in the first half but the second half was great.”
SRU travels to Seton Hill University (15-9, 7-7) Saturday for a 3 p.m. game before closing out the regular season against IUP at home Wednesday night at 8 p.m.