Despite being blessed with the presence of Godspower (8 points) Wednesday night at the Morrow Field House, Clarion was unable to overcome Micah Till’s 33 point night as the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team defeated Clarion, 71-64.
Slippery Rock head coach Ian Grady said the makeup of team personnel allows him to create plays and schemes that set up the star forwards for success.
“We run our offensive sets to fit the strengths of the team,” Grady said. “So, a lot of the actions are for [Micah] and Will Robinson. We have several other actions that are for our guards, too.”
With senior transfer Will Robinson Jr. ranked sixth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in scoring at 18.6 points per game, Till has joined his teammate in the Top Ten on the back of his 33-point, 6-rebound performance.
Matched up with gargantuan Godspower, 24-year-old freshman Godspower Ofedi that is, Till worked him in the paint all night. Till forced Ofedi into three shooting fouls, scoring six points off of Ofedi fouls, and the last one forced Ofedi out of the game for good.
Despite Till’s high-scoring night, Slippery Rock was unable to actually put Clarion away. Grady credited the Golden Eagles’ disruptive play for stopping SRU’s offensive rhythm.
“Clarion did a really good job with what they were doing and really bothered us with our turnovers,” Grady said. “[We had] 20 turnovers. We made some plays down the stretch of the game and that was the difference.”
After Clarion’s Stevan Rodriguez nailed a 3-pointer with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter, Slippery Rock’s lead had been reduced to just three points.
That’s when Till asserted his will.
A pair of free throws, on the Ofedi foul which fouled him out of the game, from Till followed by an NBA-range 3-pointer pushed the lead back to eight points with just under 50 seconds remaining.
An and-one layup from Till stretched the lead to 11 points with just under 30 seconds left, and Slippery Rock was able to escape a potential upset bid.
Grady admitted that having a player like Till to take over games when needed was always a plus but stressed the value of the entire team.
It’s nice to have that kind of player, and I’m happy that [Till] was feeling better,” Grady said. “I like our team and the players in the locker room, and I feel confident with our guys going into the games. I believe in them.”
With the return of senior guard Jared Armstrong, following a multi-game absence dating back to mid-January, Slippery Rock has three players averaging at least 15 points per game.
As a team with the potential to score points in quick bursts at any point in the game, Slippery Rock excels with its grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds.
One of the best rebounding teams in the PSAC this season, Grady pointed to the plus 14 rebounding margin against Clarion as one of the reasons his team was able to escape with a win.
Despite the win, Grady said the team still has a lot of work to do in the stretch run of the season. He pointed to team chemistry and the ability to gel together fully as an area to continue improving.
When Till is putting in performances as he did against Clarion, as evidenced by a 12 game win streak last season, Slippery Rock can be nearly impossible to contain.
SRU: Till’s 33-point, 6-rebound, 3-assist, 3-steal night highlighted one of the better individual performances for Slippery Rock this season. He scored 33 points on just 16 shots and converted 11 of 12 free throws.
Robinson took the backseat to Till against Clarion but still put 11 points and four rebounds.
Senior guard Donovan Walker and freshman forward Lashon Lindsey each chipped in seven points off the bench while Armstrong returned to the lineup with two points in 11 games.
CLAR: Elijah Cottrill led the way for Clarion with 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but he did commit a game-high seven turnovers.
Rodriguez put together a 9-for-12 performance en route to a 19-point night, but no one else reached double digits for Clarion.
SRU: Slippery Rock once again returned to .500 on the season as the win pushed SRU to 11-11 and 7-9 in the conference.
With five spots having been clinched in the PSAC-West, Slippery Rock is in the drivers’ seat to clinch the final spot. Holding a four game lead over Seton Hill, SRU controls its destiny.
However, Slippery Rock’s final six games feature four teams that have currently clinched a spot in the PSAC Tournament.
CLAR: Clarion falls to 4-18 on the season and 3-13 in the conference with the loss.
Clarion is all but eliminated from the PSAC Tournament as it would need a literal miracle to clinch the sixth seed.
Slippery Rock travels to Indiana, Pa. for a match up with archrival IUP on Saturday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.