The Slippery Rock men’s basketball team clinched a spot in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament for the fourth consecutive season and for the ninth time in 10 seasons with a come from behind 58-50 win over Seton Hill Saturday afternoon at the Morrow Field House.
Trailing by nine with less than nine minutes remaining in the game, Slippery Rock was in danger of dropping a contest to the team breathing down its neck in the playoff race.
With a switch flipped, Slippery Rock head coach Ian Grady attributed the comeback to staying level-headed and playing through the rough stretches.
“The biggest thing in a game like this is not quitting and seeing the game through perseverance and a lot of adversity throughout the course of the game,” Grady said. “And once it started clicking, making the plays down the stretch.”
With Seton Hill holding a 29-24 halftime lead, Slippery Rock had been 1-10 when trailing at halftime previously, SRU was staring down an upset loss.
A jumper from Seton Hill’s leading scorer Nathan Davis pushed the Griffins’ lead to 11 points midway through the second half. Over the next 10 minutes, Slippery Rock surged forward with a 24-5 run, culminating with an 11-0 run over the final two minutes.
A dominant, stat-stuffing performance from senior forward Micah Till closed the game for Slippery Rock. Till recorded just four points in the first half, but he exploded for 16 second-half points on 5-of-5 shooting.
Till recorded seven of Slippery Rock’s final 11 points, connecting on a 3-pointer, completing one layup and a regular layup.
Despite the exciting comeback nature of the victory, clinching a playoff spot in dramatic fashion, Grady said at the end of the day, a win is a win.
“It’s all the same,” Grady said. “I am proud of the guys for battling and pushing back and fighting back, but a win is a win. It doesn’t matter who we play. It makes me feel good, and the team likes that.”
Winning by only eight points over a team with just four wins this season, Grady said he’d prefer a 30-point win any day of the week.
When Slippery Rock struggled in the first half, shooting 40% from the field, but going 0-of-9 from 3-point range, junior guard Deontae Robertson was the spark the team needed. Grady pointed to Robertson’s physical play in getting him going.
“What got [Deontae] started today was going to the glass,” Grady said. “He was aggressive early; he was on the ground, fighting for loose balls early. I think when you’re playing hard like that, it kind of forces you to get into a rhythm.”
With the team shooting a season low 11% from 3-point range, connecting on just two of 18 attempts, Slippery Rock was still able to pull out a win.
Slippery Rock’s leading 3-point shooter, senior guard Jared Armstrong, made one of the team’s two threes. Working his way back from an injury absence, Grady said Armstrong’s role will fluctuate as the season winds down.
“We’re just playing by ear and seeing on a game-by-game basis to how it fits the team. [Jared] can play multiple guard positions, so he’s a versatile player.”
While Slippery Rock experienced an off night from the field, shooting just 43% from the field and 11% from beyond the arc, SRU limited Seton Hill to just 32% shooting from the field and 33% beyond the arc.
With back to back wins now, including a win over regionally-ranked Pitt-Johnstown, Grady hopes that Slippery Rock is peaking at the right time.
“I’m hoping that we’re rolling the right direction, and we’re peaking now at the right time,” Grady said. “That’s the end goal. Basketball is a really long season, so I’m hoping we’re hitting our stride now.”
SRU: Till led Slippery Rock with 20 points, eight rebounds, five blocks, four steals and three assists in an all-around dominant display. Till shot 7-of-11 from the field and 1-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Robertson rounded out double-digit scorers with 14 points while chipping in six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Sophomore forward Will Bounds contributed eight points off the bench on 2-of-3 shooting and grabbed seven boards.
SHU: Davis led Seton Hill in scoring with 20 points, but he shot just 5-of-19 from the field.
Jimmy Moon played the entire game for Seton Hill and finished with 16 points and six rebounds. No one else for SHU added more than five points.
Slippery Rock clinched the final spot in the PSAC-West with the win and improved to 13-12 on the season and 9-10 in the conference.
Through the remaining three games, Slippery Rock will have the chance to climb as high as fifth in the division.
With senior forward Will Robinson, Jr. out for the second consecutive game, freshman forward Lashon Lindsey once again got the start for Slippery Rock. Although his 2-point, 5-rebound game was a far cry from his 16-point, 8-rebound game against Pitt-Johnstown.
With no word on Robinson’s injury, Till will continue to serve as the go-to option for Slippery Rock.
SHU: Seton Hill falls to 4-18 on the season and 3-15 in the conference with the road loss to Slippery Rock.
The loss officially eliminated Seton Hill from playoff contention.
Slippery Rock has the week off as part of the PSAC’s scheduled by week and will be back in action on the road against Gannon in a game with major seeding implications. Tipoff is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m.