Sitting on a three-game win streak, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team welcomed their biggest adversary, the Crimson Hawks of Indiana (Pa.) into Morrow Field House on Wednesday night. The two teams entered the contest positioned as the PSAC Western Division’s premier teams.
The green and white started out slow, connecting on only one of their initial ten shot attempts and shooting a meager 29.0% in the first 20 minutes. They were held to 24 points and had led for all of eleven seconds, and entered halftime knowing that an important second half of basketball would follow. SRU needed to climb out of an eleven-point hole if it wanted to gain ground on their rivals, who were ahead in the standings by a game-and-a-half.
Slippery Rock fell further into the hole when, 21 seconds into the second half, IUP forward Jacobo Diaz drained a three-pointer that put his squad up by 14 points. Slippery Rock forward Micah Till, who, earlier in the week, was named the Western Division Athlete of the Week for the fourth time this season, answered by hitting a pair of threes on The Rock’s next two possessions. Slippery Rock finally caught up to Crimson Hawks with 9:31 left on the board.
For the next 9:27, Till and company would not fall behind Indiana, but an inability to make free throws came back to haunt The Rock. Though finishing the night as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Till missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have extended his team’s two-point lead with 16 ticks to go. A dozen seconds after Diaz grabbed the board, guard Anthony Glover hit his fourth, and most important, three of the evening. The score on the board reading 67-65, Till had an opportunity out of a timeout to hit a buzzer-beating triple, but the ball jumped off of the rim, giving IUP the victory.
With what ended up as the game-winning bucket, IUP captured its second straight victory in the waning seconds, as they escaped a road matchup with Mercyhurst when guard Malik Miller put down the dagger with two seconds remaining. Of the clutch plays, SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds said, “The game’s on your home floor and you have the lead with a minute to go, you have to close out. Those are games you have to win. That’s why [Indiana] is the team they are. They’re able to close those out.”
Reynolds also addressed the struggles his team had throughout the game, saying, “We just didn’t make the plays. They made the plays. We had our opportunities down the stretch and we just couldn’t make baskets in the last [3:02]. We didn’t make hoops and struggled to make free throws, obviously. They made a huge shot.”