With a double-digit victory over Edinboro University (11-12) Wednesday, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team (17-7) secured a playoff berth for the sixth time in the last seven years.
The Rock defeated Edinboro 75-64 after outscoring the Fighting Scots 41-31 in the second half.
“We still have four more games, we’re playing for seeding and for the NCAA Tournament,” Reynolds said. “There wasn’t a lot of celebration about getting into the conference tournament. We look at our program as a national program, and the goal every year is to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
SRU senior guard Desma Nicholson said he’s very pleased with what his team has done so far.
“With us clinching a spot in the playoffs, it gives us that extra push we need to make a run,” Nicholson said. “I am very proud of the team, because we learned to come together when adversity hits.”
Juniors Kelvin Goodwin and Cornelius Brown were both inactive due to a coach’s decision, so the Rock was without two of their starters once again.
Both teams struggled offensively in this game, with neither team shooting over 32 percent. SRU shot 34.8 percent (23-66), while Edinboro shot 26.9 percent (18-67).
“They play underneath you, and they aren’t pressuring you,” Reynolds said. “They make you shoot over the top. They were the number one field goal percentage defensive team in our league coming in, so it was a physical game. The good news is that we had 14 offensive rebounds.”
The first half featured tough defense from both teams, and the Rock went into halftime with a one point lead (34-33).
“We were happy with the first half and at halftime we were happy because we felt the game was at our pace and tempo,” SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “We were aggressive, getting to the hoop and got to the line 11 times in the first half. So, we had a positive mind frame as a team and felt good about it.”
Nicholson said Reynolds kept the team positive at halftime.
“Coach Reynolds would keep encouraging us that our shots would fall and that we would need to keep playing aggressive defense,” Nicholson said.
The Green and White took over in the second half, allowing Edinboro to shoot 25 percent (8-32) from the field. Defensively, SRU managed to block five of Edinboro’s shots in the second half.
“We got a bunch of stops and held them to eight baskets in the second half,” Reynolds said. “Our defense was good in the first half and better in the second half. We did a good job of possessing the ball in the second half. We felt good about all four aspects of the game that we were focusing on.”
SRU junior guard Malcolm Richardson had the best game of his collegiate career. Richardson scored a career-high 25 points (8-15) to go along with a career-high and game-high 12 rebounds. Richardson made his second start at point guard with junior guard Kelvin Goodwin being inactive due to a coach’s decision once again.
Reynolds praised Richardson for his work in practice and how well he rebounded on Wednesday.
“He’s been practicing well and has had a good few weeks of practice, so his game is getting better,” Reynolds said. “His confidence is increasing, he was in attack mode on offense and defense. 12 rebounds in 33 minutes from the guard position is phenomenal.”
Senior guard Antonio Butler scored 15 points, but struggled shooting. Butler shot 20 percent (4-20) from the field to go along with 11 rebounds and three assists. Senior forward Frank Holloway also struggled shooting, with a field goal percentage of 23 (3-13). Holloway scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds.
Junior guard Abdul King scored 11 points (3-3) and grabbed seven rebounds.
“They’re tall, athletic and they did a good job defensively against us,” Reynolds said.
Edinboro was led by Henri Wade-Chatman, who scored 29 points (7-30) to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Jaymon Mason added 17 points (6-15), seven rebounds and two assists.
The Green and White’s next game is against Seton Hill University at home at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Reynolds said his team still has to play extremely well over the next four games, especially against Seton Hill on Saturday.
“They beat us in their place, and it was disappointing for us,” Reynolds said. “There should still be a bad taste in our mouth seeing them coming into Morrow on Saturday. We have to play better.”