After claiming their first playoff win in three years, the SRU men’s basketball team was poised to make a run in the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) tournament, but had that bid fall short in Erie when they fell to Gannon, 77-70.
For only the third time this season, SRU was out-rebounded, the last time that occurred was also against the Golden Knights. This was a big factor why The Rock trailed 31-21 at the half.
“They got us on our heels in the first half, we had to play uphill from there,” SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds said.
Another reason for SRU’s low-scoring first half was free-throw shooting. Poor foul shooting plagued The Rock all season long, and came to ahead on Wednesday when they posted a meek 47.1 percent from the line, whilst Gannon shot a stellar 86.2 percent.
“They made their free throws, that’s significant in a game of this magnitude,” Reynolds said.
First-team all-PSAC West selection sophomore Micah Till led the way for The Rock, posting his 22nd double-double of the season with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Till finishes his first year at The Rock with 361 rebounds, which is number one in the nation and eighth in all divisions.
Junior forward Brandon Simmons also posted a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, also rejecting five shots. Simmons finishes the season with 84 blocks, fourth in the nation and the 12th-most for a PSAC player ever.
Coming into the second half, SRU had their work cut out for them with a ten point deficit. Slippery Rock was able to cut the Golden Knights lead down to two only three minutes into the second half, thanks to scoring by Till and a three-pointer by senior guard Khyree Wooten.
“We wanted to win,” Wooten said. “I thought we had a chance to win the whole game. We came out sloppy in the first half. I think if we would have hit a couple more shots, we would have won the game.”
Gannon looked to pull away throughout the second half and held a 13-point lead with less than two minutes left. However, SRU still had plenty of fight left in them and made three-pointers on four consecutive possessions, by Simmons, twice by Wooten and finally by Till, respectively.
“Anytime you don’t give up and play until the final gun, it’s good,” Reynolds said.
After Till’s three, SRU trailed by only four with 29 seconds left. However, being in a position where fouling was necessary, Gannon was able to step up and make six-straight free throws to clinch the game, 77-70.
Even with bowing out in the second round, this was one of the best win-totals that SRU has had in recent memory. 21 wins is the most since the 2012 season, and SRU will inherit their scoring and rebounds leader in Till and blocks leader in Simmons, as well as a starting point guard in junior Bruce Spruell and several bench players for next year.
“They like playing with each other [and] the chemistry is good, you just have to keep building on it,” Wooten said.