Despite trailing by 11 points with 14 minutes left to play, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team outscored Gannon University of Pennsylvania 37-19 during the final stretch of the game, leading to a 70-63 victory on Wednesday night.
The Rock (12-5 overall, 9-4 PSAC) battled back and forth with the Golden Knights (9-8 overall, 7-6 PSAC) throughout the entire game.
The win marks the third straight for the Green and White and the seventh win in the last eight games for the team.
Junior forward Tabari Perry led the team with 15 points and 12 rebounds as he finished with his second “double-double” of the season.
Senior guard Devin Taylor scored 14 points, junior guard John Bayardelle added 13 points and senior guard Jon Valeriano had 12 points and six assists.
Junior center Luiz Santos had nine rebounds and freshman Chaquille Pratt added an additional nine points and five rebounds for the win.
Taylor, who currently leads the PSAC in rebounds, had only two boards on Wednesday night. Taylor also got into some early foul trouble and was benched for much of the game.
The first half featured back and forth leads by both teams. In the first three and a half minutes, the Rock went out to a 9-2 lead, only to have the Golden Knights go on a 7-0 run and tie the game 9-9 with 13:30 left in the half.
SRU scored six unanswered points in the next 90 seconds, but Gannon battled back with eight unanswered points of their own to take their first lead of the game, 17-15 with just under eight minutes left in the first half.
The Green and White earned back the lead at 20-19 with 4:15 left, but once again Gannon fought back with a 6-0 run and took the lead, 25-20 with 2:20 left before halftime. Again, the Rock came back strong with a 5-0 run, tying the game at 25-25 heading into the half.
Coming back from the half, the Golden Knights scored 19 of the first 27 points to take a big lead over the Rock, 44-33 with 14 minutes remaining in the game.
The Rock fought back and scored 18 of the next 25 points, and with a 3-pointer by Taylor, the score was tied 51-51 with 7:50 left in the game.
Gannon stole the momentum back from the Green and White by scoring the next six points and mustering a 57-51 lead with 4:30 remaining.
Pratt scored five points in 23 seconds, including a clutch 3-pointer, during the Rock’s 8-0 run within the next minute to regain the lead, 59-57.
Bayardelle hit two deep threes for the Rock to move the Rock’s lead to a securing 65-60 advantage.
The Green and White finished the game by making five of six foul shots in the final minutes to clinch the win for the Rock.
Head coach Kevin Reynolds credits the entire team with stepping it up.
“We typically play nine guys in every game ranging between 15-30 minutes each,” Reynolds said. “It was really a team effort by the guys on Wednesday, and the constant rotations keep the guys playing to their full potential.”
SRU finished with a 35 percent (23-65) in total shots with a 39 percent (9-23) in 3-pointers. The Rock buried 65 percent (15-23) of free throws.
Gannon shot 41 percent (24-59) from the field, shot four of 12 from 3-point range, and hit 82 percent (11-13) of their foul shots.
Additionally, the Rock held a 42-40 advantage in rebounds and had less turnovers than Gannon (14-11).
The third place Rock team has now turned their attention to tomorrow’s game against current PSAC leader Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Reynolds said.
“The game tomorrow is very important for us,” Reynolds said. “We approach every game with the same state of mind, because they’re all important, but a win tomorrow would really improve our record and our ranking in the PSAC.”
Taylor said that many factors will help get them a win tomorrow.
“Defense, rebounds, and unselfishness have been the keys to our recent victories, and hopefully all of those aspects fall into place for us tomorrow.”
IUP is currently in first place for the PSAC, followed by Mercyhurst University (12-5, 10-5), then SRU in third place. California University of Pennsylvania (11-8, 8-5)moved into a tie with Clarion University (12-7. 8-5) for fourth place. Edinboro University (9-8, 7-6) and Gannon are tied for sixth place. Lock Haven University is seventh (0-16, 0-13