After scoring only four points throughout the first nine minutes of play, the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team (20-9, 10-6 PSAC-West) regrouped and defeated Seton Hill University (15-12, 7-9 PSAC-West) 68-65 Saturday night in the First Round of PSAC Playoffs.
The win by SRU marked the seventh 20-win season in the program’s history and the fourth in head coach Kevin Reynolds’ tenure.
“We don’t have many of those (20-win seasons) here,” Reynolds said. “The guys didn’t want it to end tonight and that showed by their effort.”
Slippery Rock had defeated the Griffins twice already this season and had to fight for those wins as well. The first meeting ended in a 72-71 score and the second ended 73-69.
Reynolds praised the talents of Seton Hill’s players, particularly those of Kameron Taylor, Malachi Leonard and Max Kenyi.
“They have the best talent in the league, in my opinion,” Reynolds said. “5 (Taylor) and 14 (Leonard) are First Team All Conference players and 22 (Kenyi) is playing on a torn ACL. Kenyi was a transfer from Harvard and was First Team Ivy League when he was there. That’s a team with three First Team All Conference players.”
The effort behind SRU’s first-half comeback was led by junior Matej Delinac. Delinac scored a total of 17 points and seven rebounds in his 22 minutes of play, 11 of those points were scored in the first half.
“Matej was easily the player of the game for us,” Reynolds said. “He kept us in the game.”
The Green and White finished the first half with an eight-point lead over Seton Hill (36-28).
The Griffins came out aggressive in the second half and managed to briefly take the lead three minutes in. Momentum swung back and forth the remainder of the game, with SRU coming out on top.
Redshirt junior guard Antonio Butler hit a crucial three-point shot with 33 seconds remaining to put the Rock up 65-61.
Senior guard Josh Martin made three free throws in the final moments of the game to seal the deal for SRU, leaving the final score to be 68-65.
All of Martin’s points (five) on Saturday came from free throws.
Senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs finished with a double-double and his 17th-straight double-digit scoring game with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“He (Lewis-Briggs) played more than we wanted him to play but when Erik (Raleigh) fouled out, he had to play more minutes,” Reynolds said. “It took a team effort to get this win.”
Slippery Rock held a 20-0 advantage in second chance points over the Griffins, made 46 percent (23 of 50) from the field and 53.3 percent (16 of 30) from the line.
Seton Hill finished with 46.9 percent (23 of 49) from the field and 73.7 percent (14 of 19) from the line.
“When the guys miss one or two free throws, they lose their confidence,” Reynolds said. “They have to have confidence. We got to the line a lot and were being aggressive, so I was happy with the effort.”
The Griffins scored 20 points off turnovers from the Rock.
“At times it wasn’t the smartest game, but we had guys step up,” Reynolds said. “We have to have the same team effort Tuesday night. They’re (Gannon) the gest team in the league (PSAC-West) and we know the atmosphere from last year.”
Last season, SRU defeated Gannon University 62-58 in overtime in front of a packed crowd on the road.
The two will play in the Quarterfinal Round of the PSAC Playoffs Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Hammermill Center.