Senior day celebrations, dunks, alley-oops, and dancing is what visitors to Morrow Field House were greeted with on Saturday. Amidst the excitement, the SRU men’s basketball team earned an important win over Pitt-Johnstown, 89-63.
Before the game, the team’s five seniors were honored. Forwards Christal Malalu, Tony Gates and Richard Bivens, as well as guards Khyree Wooten and Merdic Green.
The pre-game celebrations had no chance of stacking up to the flash displayed on the court throughout the game. Gates, Wooten, Malalu and Green all threw down dunks throughout the game, a few of which involved alley-oops from teammates.
“We hadn’t had that energy in a long time, we just played with more energy, I think that was a big key,” SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds said.
Despite the flash, SRU only held a narrow lead over UPJ for the majority of the game. With 18 minutes remaining, UPJ pulled within one point of SRU. However, a 30-13 run over the next 10 minutes sealed the deal for SRU’s eventual 26 point win.
“The guys played real well. We felt like we didn’t turn [the ball] over in the second half,” Reynolds said. “Guys were shooting real well and getting into a rhythm.”
The senior guard pair of Green and Wooten both had quite productive days, scoring 16 and 14, respectively. Wooten also shot 3-5 from beyond the arc, and Green 2-4 from three-point land.
Malalu had one of the most efficient outings of the afternoon. Although he only played 11 minutes, Malalu made the most of it, shooting a perfect 3-3 to score six points, and recorded seven rebounds.
It wasn’t all the seniors though, as SRU’s two leading scorers on the day were both underclassmen. Sophomore forward Micah Till kept up his incredible season with another double-double, this time scoring 22 and collecting 17 rebounds, as well picking UPJ’s pocket twice, and rejecting three shots.
Speaking of rejected shots, junior forward Brandon Simmons did not slow down his shot-blocking tenancies at all after breaking the SRU single-season record on Wednesday, blocking four more on Saturday and scoring 17 points.
SRU ended up having a superb shooting day, shooting 40 percent from three-point territory and 57 percent overall.
“They’ve been taking extra shots before and after practice, I think that’s a big key,” Reynolds said.
Near the end of the second half, it seemed like everything was going SRU’s way and every shot was falling to pull away, so much so that Malalu could be seen dancing on the bench when one of his teammates scored.
“These are my brothers, being together really helps.” Malalu said.
“Just being together every day, we’ve grown that chemistry since we first got here. We’re always in the gym together shooting, [chemistry] is just natural,” Wooten said.
SRU will now have an entire week off before their regular season finale at Gannon.
“We’re going to be in a hostile environment, it’s going to be a tough game Against a really good team. Good thing is we got a week to prepare for them,” Reynolds said.
The win pushes SRU’s season record up to 20-7, only the sixth 20-win season in school history.
“This is one of the six teams that’s won 20 games, that’s part of their legacy. Anytime you’re 20-7 this late in the season, it says a lot about the guys,” Reynolds said.
“Being around each other and playing last year, our senior year has been good,” Green said.