The Slippery Rock men’s basketball team picked up a home-opening win against Penn State Shenango, 84-65, Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Morrow Field House.
Despite the game being held against the smallest Penn State branch campus, Slippery Rock entered the halftime intermission deadlocked at 33, and head coach Ian Grady said the team just fell flat in the first half.
“We came out flat tonight after talking about not coming out flat,” Grady said. “I take a lot out of each game. Any time the ball goes up, we evaluate. We gotta learn from it, but that’s what happens when you come out not ready to go.”
Grady credited a second-half surge, initiated by senior guard Donovan Walker, as the turning point in the game. It was one of the bright spots that Grady saw during the game.
Walker started the half with an acrobatic layup, followed with a three-point jumper and recorded a steal before the Nittany Lions could blink.
Walker finished the game with a season-high 19 points, which included 13 in the second half, 10 rebounds and four assists to record his first double-double of the season.
His individual heroics were needed as Slippery Rock trailed Shenango throughout the first seven minutes of the game. The Nittany Lions connected on six of its nine three-pointers in the first half and benefited from SRU’s sloppy play.
Grady shouldered some of the blame in Slippery Rock’s slow start, which included 10 turnovers.
“Even though we preached about it, I’ve got to take some responsibility for it,” Grady said. “I don’t really know why, but the guys on the court were flat, I was flat, the bench was flat and that’s what happens when guys aren’t into it.”
Slippery Rock shot well in the first half, slashing 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range, but Shenango kept itself in the game with 66 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the first half.
Fueled by Walker and senior forward Will Robinson, Jr., Slippery Rock rode a 21-4 run to a comfortable second-half lead. Which ballooned to 28 points midway through the half.
Slippery Rock’s defense limited Shenango to just 28 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from three-point range.
While the offense reeled off 51 second-half points, Grady still felt that the offense did not flow well.
“We didn’t share the ball, we didn’t move the ball and we didn’t get to the correct spots,” Grady said. “The spacing wasn’t there. Individualized is a good word for it.”
Despite the flat offense and sloppy play at times, Grady said there is no reason to worry about how the offense gels moving forward.
“I don’t think it’s a big problem, and I don’t think it’s a gelling thing either,” Grady said. “It’s really a circumstance of the situation. We addressed it, and we’re going to fix it.”
The offense- despite some kinks- shot well, shooting above 44 percent from the field and from three, and The Rock missed just two free throws in 15 attempts.
Aside from Walker’s career night, Robinson and senior guard Jared Armstrong led the way with 14 points apiece. Both players shot 50 percent from the field while Armstrong outrebounded his much taller teammate, 4-3.
Sophomores Amante Britt, Will Bounds and Jason Fowlkes rounded out the top scorers for Slippery Rock with nine points for Britt and Bounds and eight for Fowlkes.
With the University of Charleston looming in Atlantic Region play, Grady stressed that his team still needed work in all aspects.
“We’ve got a lot of areas to fix,” Grady said. “Defensively, rebounding. Offensively, taking care of the ball and sharing the ball.”
Tipoff against Charleston was scheduled for 5:45 on Nov. 16 at the Morrow Field House.