Standing with his back to the Slippery Rock bench, close enough that a player on the bench could reach out and touch him, junior forward Deontae Robertson caught a pass and let loose a three which splashed through the bottom of the net.
The bench erupted as the Slippery Rock men’s basketball stretched its lead to 13 points with just under four minutes left in the second half. Which made California’s Brent Pegram’s buzzer-beating three-pointer four minutes later especially heart-breaking.
Walking off the court with a 94-93 loss on Monday, Jan. 6, Slippery Rock (6-7, 2-5 PSAC) played a nearly flawless game, shooting 59% from the field and 64% from three-point range.
Nearly flawless, just wasn’t good enough.
California (Pa.) (8-5, 5-2 PSAC) rode Pegram’s 30-point night to a come from behind win with the very last shot deciding the outcome of the game.
With the game being decided by one point, while one play doesn’t totally decide the outcome, a technical foul before the opening jump gave the Vulcans a free throw, which was converted upon, and the early lead.
Slippery Rock and California traded the lead throughout the game, playing a back and forth game all the way to the final seconds.
Trailing by five at the half, Slippery Rock was led by senior guard Jared Armstrong in the second half. The 5-10 guard connected on five of five shots, including three three-pointers, to lead SRU to a late lead.
However, sloppy play late in the game from Slippery Rock and the ability to cash in on those mistakes from California allowed the Vulcans to climb back in the game.
California converted 10 points on four Slippery Rock turnovers in the final four minutes, tying SRU at 89 with 1:14 left in the game.
Trailing by one with just four seconds left, senior guard Donovan Walker found himself at the free throw line with a chance to give Slippery Rock the lead. He hit the first attempt and then buried the second.
Pegram got the inbound and with the least amount of time on the clock possible, he put up a desperation three-pointer which ended up being the game-winner.
SRU: Armstrong led Slippery Rock with 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting, including going six of seven from beyond the arc.
Robertson continued a strong stretch of play with 20 points and six rebounds while senior forward Will Robinson, Jr. continued his stellar season with 17 points and senior forward Micah Till continued his comeback with 12 points.
Cal-U: Pegram took over the game for California, dropping 30 points with 21 in the second half alone. He ranks third in the PSAC with just over 20 points per game.
Luke House and Zyan Collins both played the entire game for Cal-U and scored 18 and 13 points, respectively.
SRU: With the loss, Slippery Rock drops to 6-7 on the season and 2-5 in the conference.
The loss also was the first time Slippery Rock lost to California at home since the 2010 season. Not the best start for 2020.
Cal-U: California improves to 8-5 on the season and 4-3 in the conference with the away victory.
The crucial away victory pushed the Vulcans directly into the core of the PSAC Tournament hunt, battling with Pitt-Johnstown and Mercyhurst.
Slippery Rock returns home for a clash with archrival No. 9 Indiana (Pa.) Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.