Back-to-back wins by Slippery Rock men’s basketball (14-13, 10-11) has guaranteed The Rock a spot in the PSAC tournament. Their next game determines whether or not they will be home or away.
“We’re playing Mercyhurst either way,” Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “A win on Saturday will give us a home game. A loss will put us away.”
The Rock and the Lakers (13-12, 11-10) have created a rivalry this season and will have a chance to settle it on Monday in the first-round of the PSAC tournament.
With nearly identical records, The Rock only has one less win than Mercyhurst. The teams have met twice this year, splitting the encounters. SRU took the first game in a close 49-46 win in Erie early in January, but the Lakers struck back and won the rematch 81-72 when they came to Morrow Field House.
The Rock’s loss to the Lakers was more than just another loss on the season or a split between the series. That loss was the second of a three-game losing streak that almost knocked The Rock out of post-season play. But, with The Rock winning its last two games, Reynolds and his team guaranteed themselves a spot.
Reynolds said that he thinks it was senior day that really began their push back into the postseason hunt.
“We needed to win,” Reynolds said. “Obviously both games were played in much win situations, but that first win against Gannon started it. On senior afternoon, our seniors didn’t want to go out with a loss in potentially their last home game.”
Reynolds said that the energy from the win against Gannon carried into their next game against Edinboro. He said he is hoping that the consistency remains the same against University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (17-10, 12-9) this Saturday.
“We lost to them here,” Reynolds said. “They’re solidified with a home game, so we’re hoping they look past us.”
If SRU wins and Mercyhurst loses its game to Gannon (16-9, 14-7) the two teams will trade places for the fourth and fifth spots in the conference.
Despite an average season, Reynolds doesn’t fear playing in the post season against top teams. Reynolds said that since he has been coaching at SRU his teams have competed in the playoffs just as much as any other team outside of No. 2 IUP (25-2, 20-1).
With one of the toughest schedules in the PSAC Reynolds said that his team is ready for the post season.
“We’ve had the third hardest schedule in the conference,” Reynolds said. “We’ve played more games away from home than any other team.”
For most teams, the postseason starts on Monday, but Reynolds said, that for him and his team, they have been playing playoff-like games for weeks. Reynolds said every game from this point out is a part of the post-season.
“We just have to take it game-by-game, possession-by-possession,” Reynolds said. “We can’t look past Saturday or Monday.”
Saturday’s game against UPJ will determine whether SRU’s postseason will begin at home or on the road.