The Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team (3-1) won their home opener against the University of Pitt-Johnstown (2-1) last Saturday.
SRU scored a season-high 79 points, and defeated UPJ 79-71.
The Rock went into halftime with a 42-39 lead, which was their highest scoring half of the season. However, SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds wasn’t satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We didn’t play as well as we thought we could’ve in the first half,” Reynolds said. “We gave them too many easy and uncontested shots. 42 points is more than we’ve been scoring in a half, so that was a positive. In the second half, we guarded them a lot better.”
The second half was dictated by defense and turnovers. The Rock scored 37 points, and held UPJ to 32 points.
The Green and White had a different starting lineup in this game, because sophomore forward Chaquille Pratt was out with an injury. The Rock started junior guard Kelvin Goodwin, senior guard Antonio Butler, senior forward Frank Holloway, junior guard Jamal Gatali, and junior center Cornelius Brown (his first start of the season).
The starting lineup has fluctuated in the first four games of the season, and Reynolds said it isn’t a priority.
“We don’t focus on the starting lineup that much, we focus on winning games,” Reynolds said. “We have a lot of guys that can start, and we just try to match our lineups against the other teams. We don’t have a star-studded team, we just play whoever’s playing well on a given night.”
Goodwin scored a game and team-high 21 points (8-13) to go along with three assists, one rebound and three steals.
“At Gannon, he didn’t have one of his better nights, so we knew he was going to turn his play up on Saturday,” Reynolds said in reference to Goodwin. “He’s a competitive guy like that. By the way he works and practices, we knew he was going to have a good game on Saturday, and he did.”
Butler scored 17 points (6-12) to go along with four assists, seven rebounds, two steals and one block. Junior guard Malcolm Richardson came off the bench and scored 17 points (7-13, a career high) to go along with five rebounds, assists and steals.
“He had a very good game off the bench, and he’s been playing well,” Reynolds said in reference to Richardson. “To his credit, he’s been putting in extra time at night. It’s nice to see when someone puts the extra time in and find success.”
Other scorers for the Rock included Brown with eight points (3-7), Gatali with five points (1-3) and junior guard Abdul King with six points (2-5). Brown had a team-high eight rebounds as well.
The Green and White’s defense forced UPJ to have a field goal percentage of 42.1 percent. They also forced 18 turnovers, 14 steals and five blocks.
Reynolds said he wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive positioning.
“We didn’t do a good job defensively against Pitt-Johnstown,” he said. “We need to do a better job of reiterating to the players correct techniques and angles to limit scoring chances. We didn’t do a good job of explaining to the players the importance of taking better angles and strategies in guarding.”
UPJ’s high-scorer was Ian Vescovi with 20 points (8-14) to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. He scored 16 of those points in the first half. Behind Vescovi was A.J. Leahey with 18 points (7-11) and nine rebounds. UPJ’s point guard Dale Clancy chipped in 13 points and three assists as well.
As a team, UPJ forced SRU to commit 13 turnovers, and had two steals and five blocks.
The Rock’s next game is on Friday against Alderson Broaddus University (3-1) in Gannon, Pennsylvania at 5:30 p.m.