Slippery Rock coach Bobby McGraw felt that his team’s performance against Mercyhurst University sent a message to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference that the Slippery Rock women’s basketball team is “far from done.”
A season-high point total and one of the stingiest defensive outings of the season backed up McGraw’s claim as The Rock controlled the game from basically the opening tip-off during the 90-63 victory over the Lakers Wednesday night at Morrow Field House.
“Today was one of those games where I could have done the normal coach-speak thing and tell the team it was just another game,” McGraw explained. “It wasn’t just another game, that was a crucial game. We lose tonight and our playoff chances begin to evaporate.”
The Rock (10-13, 8-9 PSAC) shot well above the season average of 39 percent by going 31-59 from the field for a 52.5 percent clip. The shooting exhibition continued from three-point range with six makes in 17 attempts for a 35.3 percent conversion rate.
The hot shooting night was led by junior guard Brooke Hinderliter with 23 points on nine of 12 shooting. Hinderliter could not seem to miss in the first half with numerous fadeaway buckets and acrobatic layups around the basket.
“[Hinderliter] had 20 at halftime. If she hadn’t had foul trouble, there’s no telling what she would have done,” McGraw said.
Sophomore guard Daeja Quick contributed 23 points on eight of 15 shooting from the field. Redshirt junior guard Madison Johnson and senior guard Ciara Patterson also chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively.
While the Green and White tallied a season-high 90 points, the league-worst defense forced 16 turnovers and held the Lakers (8-15, 5-11) to just 32.2 percent shooting from the field.
The Green and White put in a defensive effort that McGraw expressed was much needed. He stated that everyone who stepped on the floor put in effort that he could not have been more proud of.
“Message was play hard for 40 minutes and something good will happen,” McGraw stated. “We played hard for 40 minutes and something good did happen.”
In a game where The Rock led for 39:30 of 40 possible minutes and held a lead of 29 points in the fourth quarter, McGraw was able to allow his freshmen key minutes in a game with very low stakes.
“They work as hard as anyone on this roster, every single day. They show up for work and they deserve time,” commented McGraw. “Olivia Fusaro has her minutes climbing. She had an unbelievable game against IUP with 15 and 5. Marissa Hopson passes the ball as well as any non-BCS player I’ve ever recruited. Daeja Quick’s performance was just absolutely sensational.”
With the victory, the Green and White stay firmly entrenched in the PSAC Tournament hunt with only four conference games left on the schedule.
Indiana University (Pa.) and California University (Pa.) have already clinched playoff spots. Edinboro University, Seton Hill University and Pitt-Johnstown currently sit ahead of The Rock in the standings but have not yet clinched berths.
Currently sixth in the division, The Rock holds the final playoff spot in the PSAC-West. McGraw expressed confidence in the locker room culture to be able to handle the stressful stretch run over the next few weeks.
“This is coach speak: it’s in our own hands. We control our own destiny,” said McGraw. “We win out, we’re getting in the playoffs. We drop one, I don’t know. If we win out, we’re in and that’s the only thing we’re talking about.”
The Rock will be back in action against Clarion University this Saturday at the Clarion University Rec Center. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m.