In the final seconds of a heated game against West Chester University (3-4, 2-1), Rock men’s basketball’s (4-4, 1-2) Merdic Green made a putback buzzer-beater to win the game 71-69.
“I was just hoping I had my legs under me,” Green said. “I thought Khyree [Wooten] was going to make it honestly, but when he didn’t instinct just kicked in.”
The Golden Rams were trailing when a series of Rock fouls would bring them back in the game. Junior forward Vinny Lasley was given a technical foul for arguing with West Chester’s coach. That gave WCU two free shots and the ball back. West Chester would be fouled again and tie the score 69-69.
Green inbounded the ball and ran 90 feet to the opposite end of the court and sat under the basket as Wooten’s three-point shot bounced off of the rim. With less than two seconds left Green leaped over West Chester University defenders to grab the rebound and make the game-winning basket before being tackled on the court by his teammates.
Green was the hero of the game, but it was his worst performance of the season. He played the least amount of minutes he has in a game for the Rock and scored a season-low four points. Green said despite his poor first half performance, he never gave up and played to the last second, literally.
“Just because you have a bad half and not playing, doesn’t mean you don’t finish,” Green said.
Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds said that he prepares Green and the rest of his team for moments like these. Rebounding is very important to Reynolds. The Rock has outrebounded the Golden Rams 41-37.
“We work on rebounding more than probably any team in the country,” Reynolds said.
Green’s game winning shot will be what the game will be remembered for, but what will be hard to look past is the hostility of the game. Lasley’s late technical foul was one of two from Rock players. The first was from Naquil Jones.
The senior guard who had 11 points and shot an impressive 69.2 percent (9-13) from the free throw line, and had 5 assists and a block, was in a back-and-forth match between WCU’s sophomore guard Malik Jackson. While Jones did receive the foul, he said it is just a part of his game.
“It reminds me of back home,” Jones said. “I’ll get in their heads and they’ll try to get back in mine, but that’s my game. They can’t play that game with me.”
Reynolds said that he was disappointed that Jones and Lasley drew technicals, but he knows that trash talk is a part of the game and will never take that away from his kids. He said that he and his staff just need to fix and monitor how his players are doing it.
Green, Jones and Lasley highlighted the events of the game, but it was junior forward Christal Malalu who lit up the box score.
Malalu had a double-double scoring 20 points and snatching 14 rebounds. He played the most minutes he has all year and made the most of them.
Reynolds said Malalu earned his spot in practice and played his best game since joining the Rock. Malalu was not too worried about the numbers. He said that is not his focus in the game.
“I just try to come in and play to the best of my abilities,” Malalu said.
Malalu was not the only one who contributed to the Rock’s 71 points. Redshirt junior Khyree Wooten followed behind Malalu with 14 points of his own. He also added three assists and a steal.
The Golden Rams close finish was led by Malik Jackson who had 19 points and four assists.
This win was very important for Reynolds and his team. It was their first conference win and ended their losing record. The Rock can capitalize against a weak Cheyney University (1-6, 0-3) and improve their record even more on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Morrow Field House.
Malalu looks at this game no differently than any other. Though coming off a big win and an even bigger performance before playing a weaker team, he said his team’s win go to their head.
“I’m not looking back on today,” Malalu said. “It’s about tomorrow now.”