In what ended up being the final game of their careers, three Slippery Rock University basketball seniors played some of their best basketball in a 88-73 playoff loss to Mercyhurst University. The loss dropped SRU to a 14-15 season record, the first losing record in head coach Kevin Reynolds’s nine-year career.
Seniors Jordan Marrow, George Chase and Naquil Jones all scored in double-digits in the losing effort. Marrow, a guard from Cleveland, scored a career-high 17 points with six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes. Chase, a forward from Martinsburg, West Virginia, played 18 minutes, scoring a career-high 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and tallying two blocks. Jones led the team with 19 points in 26 minutes.
Monday was the first round of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament. Slippery Rock, the five seed, was playing at Mercyhurst, the four seed, for the second time this season. The Rock beat the Lakers at their home on Jan. 3 49-46 and was looking to repeat the feat.
Reynolds said that playing the game at Mercyhurst and not at Slippery Rock was a big difference for his team.
“We knew when we let the game on Saturday get away from us the ramifications of not winning that game,” Reynolds said. “You don’t get second chances and we knew it was going to be a lot harder to come up here, which it was.”
The Rock was without the help of junior forward Vinny Lasley, who missed the game due to an injury suffered in the game against the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on Saturday. Lasley is a normal starter and averages 4.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game.
Mercyhurst started the game by opening up an 11-1 over Slippery Rock in the first five minutes of action. Chase subbed into the game off the bench at this point and scored eight quick points to pull The Rock to within four points (20-16) with just under 10 minutes left in the first half.
The Rock continued to close the gap, only trailing by two (34-32) at the half.
In the second half, Mercyhurst started to key in more on The Rock’s big men. In response, Reynolds started having Marrow run the offense as the point guard.
“They made adjustments and came off of George, so it became a little more difficult to get the ball to him,” Reynolds said. “We tried to do what we needed to do to get him the ball inside. Marrow shot a good percentage, so we thought he was going well, so we wanted to keep giving him the ball.”
The two primary guards for the Green and White, Marrow and Jones, scored 13 and 15 points, respectively, in the second half alone.
Marrow said that he was just focusing on playing hard and trying to complete the comeback to win the game.
“I just tried to be aggressive at both ends of the floor,” Marrow said. “I saw the bigs went really ahead so I just tried to attack them every time I could.”
While SRU’s offense was slow to get going out of halftime, Mercyhurst picked up right where they left off, going on a 9-0 run early in the half to take a 52-39 lead with just over 13 minutes left to play.
“They came out in the second half and got a big lead on us,” Marrow said. “We went into halftime down two and within the first four or five minutes they went on a 9-0 run, so the emotions were running high trying to chip down that lead.”
Reynolds focused in on that 9-0 Mercyhurst run as a big moment in this game.
“I think that run at the beginning of the second half was the difference in the game. They pulled away, got an 11-point lead,” Reynolds said. “I think that was the biggest part of the game.”
Slippery Rock was never able to close the gap, ultimately losing and ending their season.
The Rock will likely return seven of its 10 players for next year. Reynolds said that with those returners, the team will need to “significantly improve” in order to contend next season.