The Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team proved they were capable of defeating a playoff caliber team Wednesday night as they took down Mercyhurst University with a final score of 83-74.
The win marks a season sweep over the Lakers for The Rock. The men beat Mercyhurst on the road in double overtime on Jan. 2 with a final score of 92-91. Rock head coach Ian Grady acknowledged the competition going into Wednesday’s game.
“We knew it was going to be another tough game tonight,” Grady said. “They have been the hottest team in the league and their defense provides a lot of problems. We worked on something in practice heading into the game; we moved the ball and made plays so I am proud of the team.”
The Rock and the Lakers exchanged baskets all game long with the former of the two taking just a three-point advantage into halftime. The second half of play saw The Rock not losing the lead once as they put up 40 more points to slam the door on the Lakers.
Senior Nolen Gerald led the way for The Rock with a season-high 24 points, shooting 11 for 15 (73 percent) from the field while also recording four rebounds and six assists.
Grady acknowledged not only Gerald’s performance on Wednesday but the entire season that he has been having.
“Offensively and defensively Nolen has been solid all year long,” Grady said. “He’s a good shot creator and passer and today he was ‘knocking them down.'”
Gerald attributed his success as a team effort.
“We kept the ball moving and got into a rhythm out on the court,” Gerald explained. “When I’d get the ball, I’d shoot, and I just had it working tonight.”
Fellow senior John Warren II and junior Jared Armstrong recorded 19 and 16 points, respectively, while combining for eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Senior Julius Palmer started his second consecutive game and once again put up solid numbers. The 6’ 10″ center recorded 12 points and shot four for five from the free-throw line while also collecting eight rebounds. Redshirt senior Vinny Lasley rounded out The Rock’s top scorers with 10 points and seven rebounds. He currently ranks seventh in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in rebounds with 183 on the season.
The Green and White shot for over 50 percent from the field on Wednesday. Grady said that shooting from the perimeter was especially important on Wednesday due to redshirt junior Micah Till out with an undisclosed injury.
“Micah put up 20 points a game for us so when he goes down, you have to make adjustments,” Grady said. “Guys have to step-up out on the court and they did that today. The guards played well today but I thought everyone played well; it was a great team effort.”
The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak for the Lakers, who had been one of the hottest teams in the conference. They remain in third place (16-5/11-5) in the PSAC-West while The Rock improves to 17-7 (14-3) and is situated second in the conference. They trail only Indiana University (Pa.) who sits atop the PSAC-West at 22-2 (15-2).
With a playoff berth already guaranteed, The Rock’s regular season is coming to a conclusion. There are four games remaining on the schedule—two at home and two on the road. The men’s penultimate away game will be on Saturday against Clarion University (5-16/3-13). Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m.