In the last regular season game of the season, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team was eliminated from Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) playoff contention on the road at the University of Pitt-Johnstown (UPJ) Wednesday night.
The Rock (15-13, 10-12 PSAC) lost 80-65 at the hands of the Mountain Cats (17-10, 13-9 PSAC). Pitt-Johnstown will continue its season in the opening round of the PSAC tournament while the Green and White will end its season with at least 15 wins for the eighth year in a row.
SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds said he felt like he was in the middle of an MMA fight during Wednesday night’s game.
“We were really disappointed. Anytime the season ends it’s not a good ending unless you win the national championship,” Reynolds said. “It was a hard way to end the season because I thought we were playing really well, particularly in February. Last night we just did not play well and UPJ played very well.”
Reynolds identified three games as being especially disappointing in-conference losses. A five-point loss at Gannon University on Jan. 23, a two-point loss at Seton Hill University on Feb. 6 and the one-point loss to Clarion on Feb. 17.
Pitt-Johnstown had a big night shooting the ball, shooting 27-51 from the floor, 12-20 from three-point range and 14-19 from the free-throw line. SRU shot a respectable 24-53 from the field, but could not withstand the Mountain Cats’ offensive barrage.
It was a tight game in the first half until Pitt-Johnstown went on a 17-0 run to go into halftime up 39-21. The Rock could not cut into the deficit in the second half as UPJ’s shooting never cooled off.
Senior guard Abdul King put up a career-high 20 points in his final game with The Rock and senior center Cornelius Brown nearly ended his career with a triple-double with 18 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
Brown had an impressive final season for The Rock, averaging 15.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Fellow seniors Jamal Gatali and Erik Raleigh also played their final game as a part of the Green and White.
Gatali, a guard, scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds while Raleigh, a forward, scored eight points.
Malcolm Richardson, Jordan Grady and Maxx Rynd also played in their final collegiate game.
The loss keeps Slippery Rock out of the PSAC tournament for the first time in the last five seasons.
“It’s hard today to find the positive, but it’s the first time in school history that we’ve had eight straight winning seasons and over those last eight years we are the second most winningest team in the west. We have a lot of positives that have occurred over the eight years. I think 20 years from now we’ll look back and say we were 100 percent better than the average,” Reynolds said. “It’s tough to have the season end this early, because I felt like if we made the conference tournament we would’ve been able to make a push. But you can’t make a push in the conference tournament if you don’t make conference tournament.”
SRU will now be turning its focus to the 2016-2017 season with current junior forward Chaquille Pratt headlining the group of returning players including juniors Naquil Jones and Jordan Marrow.