Slippery Rock never looked like it was really in the game Saturday against Mercyhurst.
After a Senior Day celebration for Micah Till, Jared Armstrong, Will Robinson, Jr. and Donovan Walker, the Slippery Rock men’s basketball team became the ninth straight team to succumb to Mercyhurst, 75-69.
While Slippery Rock (15-13, 11-11 PSAC) never trailed by more than 14 points throughout the game, Mercyhurst seemed to be in full control of the contest. Even dominant stretches of play by Till seemed to do nothing to turn the tide of the game.
Mercyhurst (19-7, 17-5 PSAC) built an early 6-5 lead at the 15:12 mark of the first half, on the back of a layup from the Lakers’ MiyKah McIntosh.
Mercyhurst never looked back, building its first half lead up to 12 points courtesy of a 3-pointer from McIntosh midway through the first half.
A contested layup from Till, that drew a foul — one of 10 fouls drawn by Till — gave Slippery Rock a chance to pull within two points toward the end of the first half, but the free throw clanked off the rim.
An Armstrong 3-point attempt with three seconds left in the half missed its mark, and Mercyhurst cruised into the intermission with a 35-30 lead.
Mercyhurst connected on half of its first half shots, shooting 14-of-28 from the field compared to Slippery Rock’s 10-of-30 effort. The Lakers made just one more 3-pointer than SRU, going 6-of-14 to SRU’s 5-of-14.
The second half was a back and forth affair through the first nine minutes before Mercyhurst built up a 12 point lead, capped off by a 3-pointer from Zach McIntire with 10:54 left to play.
A little more than a minute later, McIntosh connected on a 3-pointer of his own, stretching the lead to 14 points, a 57-43 Lakers lead.
An all-around dominant stretch of play from Till, scoring seven of Slippery Rock’s next 15 points, while dishing out two assists, grabbing a rebound and nabbing a steal, would pull SRU within four points with 4:01 left to play.
Till capped off the run by swiping a ball from a Mercyhurst player, taking some contact on the drive to the basket and slamming the ball home to bring the mostly full Morrow Field House to its feet.
However, back to back jumpers from Mercyhurst’s Cameron Gross and McIntire, a 3-pointer, stretched the lead back to nine points. Slippery Rock was never able to come back within four as Mercyhurst showcased a cohesive, nearly end to end victory.
Mercyhurst maintained a nearly 50% shooting night from the field, connecting on 27-of-55 shots while shooting 36% from beyond the arc. Slippery Rock took nine more shots than the Lakers but could only connect on 24, shooting 37.5% from the field.
Slippery Rock hadn’t shot below 40% from field since a loss to Indiana (Pa.) in early February. SRU’s four-game win streak had been fueled by at least 42% shooting from the field.
SRU: Till registered his ninth 20-point performance of the season and the sixth in his last seven games with a 23-point afternoon. Till also grabbed a team-high six rebounds, dished out three assists, blocked two shots and forced three steals.
Till’s big day moved him into sole possession of fourth place on SRU’s all-time leading scoring list, with 1,483 in just 72 games.
Armstrong made some history of his own, passing former Rock player Dennis Greene for the most 3-pointers made in a two-year stretch (124) with four on Saturday. Armstrong trailed just Till with 14 points while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
Freshman Lashon Lindsey rounded out Slippery Rock’s double-digit scorers with 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks as his role in the offense has increased significantly as the season wears on.
MU: McIntosh led a trio of double-digit scorers for Mercyhurst with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Gross and McIntire scored 17 and 16 for Mercyhurst, respectively, while Gross grabbed seven boards and McIntire grabbed nine.
SRU: Slippery Rock ended the regular season with a 15-13, 11-11 in the conference, record.
While Slippery Rock did itself no favors in moving up to the fifth seed in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division rankings, SRU held steady at the sixth seed.
MU: Mercyhurst ended the regular season on a nine game winning streak, finishing with a 19-7, 17-5 in the conference, record.
Having already clinched the two seed in the PSAC-West, Mercyhurst will have a first round bye in the PSAC Tournament.
Slippery Rock has a short turnaround with a road matchup Saturday against Pitt-Johnstown in the first round of the PSAC Tournament. SRU and UPJ split the season series this season, with each winning its home game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.