Second-half push leads The Rock to blowout win

Published by , Author: Justin Kraus - Rocket Contributor, Date: January 29, 2017
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In their first Saturday home game since classes resumed, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team held the Seton Hill University Griffins to only 16 points in each half.

“We have a great home court. I don’t think we’ve lost a Saturday night game in my nine years here,” head basketball coach Kevin Reynolds said.

Junior Merdic Green topped all scorers with 18 points and Slippery Rock more than doubled the Griffins’ point total in the second half to pull away with a 67-32 thumping.

Slippery Rock continued their to lead the boards by dominating the rebounding margin by 29.

“That’s what we do,” Reynolds said, who spoke about what influences The Rock’s unique play style. “We play on statistical analysis. We have a formula we use, so we know what we have to do.”

The Green and White also crashed the boards on offense with 18 second-chance points, thanks to 17 offensive rebounds, five of which were by junior Tony Gates. Gates also added nine points and three assists to his afternoon performance.

“Tony has been practicing and playing the position well,” Reynolds said. “He has been rising to the challenge and making a lot of hustle plays.”

A quintet of juniors contributed in numerous ways for The Rock. Vinny Lasley scored five points while going two-for-three from the field, also adding six rebounds. Christal Malalu, the team’s rebounding leader, added five more to his season total while also scoring four. Khyree Wooten was The Rock’s second-leading scorer with 12, and led the team at the free throw line, going four-for-four. Junior Amir Jones also added an additional eight points, while junior Naquil Jones led the team with five assists.

Slippery Rock’s win was an all-around team effort, with all 10 players logging at least 10 minutes of play.

“We’ve been super happy with how the guys have been playing, as crazy as it sounds during a losing streak. We played hard and we’ve been playing together,” Reynolds said of the team’s performance of late, but also cited the lingering issues the team has. “We struggle with free throws and throwing the ball to our own team. There is no drill for either of those, you just have to commit. Tonight we had 17 turnovers and shot 64 percent from free throws–that’s not great. We haven’t changed anything, this is our style and it has worked for eight and a half years.”

Reynolds clarified that they are working hard at correcting those issues.

“Nobody shoots more free throws than that. When we shoot 64 percent, we are shooting them all the time. Sometimes it’s  a mental block, when the first guy misses, that can start a bad trend. If people see the ball go through the net, it can change things.”

With only three weeks left in the season, Slippery Rock hosts California University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, February 1.

“Wednesday is the biggest game of the year,” Reynolds said. “There is no doubt about it.”

California and The Rock are both vying for a playoff spot, with CalU just two games behind Slippery Rock.

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