Despite a poor start and shooting almost as cold as the temperature outside, the SRU men’s basketball team defeated the Seton Hill Griffons 74-68 Saturday afternoon. The Rock (18-5) joins Indiana University (Pa.) as the only Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West teams to clinch a playoff berth thus far this season.
Despite defeating Seton Hill by a convincing 15 points earlier this season The Rock trailed for more than 36 minutes of the game Saturday. The Green and White started the game slow, shooting only 30 percent in the first half and turning the ball over seven times.
Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds thought that his team, overall, did not play a good game despite getting the win.
“We didn’t play well,” Reynolds said. “Give a lot of credit to Seton Hill, they’re well-coached and they have good players. We knew how good they were, they’re a dangerous team and we didn’t have our A-game. A sign of a good team is when you’re able to win when you don’t have your A-game and we were able to do that.”
Despite an 8-14 record this season, The Griffons played Slippery Rock tough all game long. With eight minutes left in the first period, at a media timeout, SRU trailed by 11, 25-14. The Rock then went on an 8-0 run, powered by four points from both sophomore forward Micah Till and junior guard Bruce Spruell over the following four minutes to pull down one 25-24. The Rock would end the half only down by four, 34-30.
Slippery Rock improved both its shooting and defense in the second half, and was able to keep the game within reach down the stretch. SHU was up by three with a minute left to play in regulation. Needing at least a score and a stop, Reynolds went to Spruell, who at that point had 15 points and had hit seven of eight free throws. Spruell shot a contested floater that was batted away by a Seton Hill defender, but the referee called goaltending, putting The Rock only one point back. On the opposite end of the court, Seton Hill junior Brandon Alston missed an open jump shot and SRU junior forward Brandon Simmons forced a jump ball turnover to give The Rock back possession down only one point with less than 30 seconds left.
Slippery Rock called a timeout to set up that they hoped would be the last play of the game. Spruell got the inbounds pass and drove into the paint and tried to outlet pass the ball to senior guard Khyree Wooten, but was fouled in the process. Spruell made one of the two free-throws to tie the game and Seton Hill was unable to make a shot at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Slippery Rock actually looked like the better team for the first time all game. The Rock outscored SHU 11-5, forcing six missed shots by The Griffons to win the game and clinch a playoff berth.
Spruell led all scorers with one of his best offensive games of the season with 23 points. Complementing Spruell were Simmons, who continued a dominant defensive season with three blocks and Till, who put up 27 total rebounds, the most by a Rock player in a single game since the 1950’s.
The Rock closes out the regular season with five straight PSAC West games that will all play big factors in playoff seeding, starting this Wednesday against Mercyhurst University.
“We know it’s going to be a hostile environment,” Reynolds said. “We know they’re going to be ready for us, it’s a good rivalry and we need to play a lot better than we did today to win up there, on the road.”