A perennial contender in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Slippery Rock managed to punch their ticket to compete in the postseason once again to capture that elusive PSAC men’s basketball title.
After falling just short in the second round of the playoffs in the 2017-18 season to Gannon by a score of 77-70, a revamped Slippery Rock squad seems to be hungrier than ever, rallying around acting head coach, Ian Grady.
Credit must be given where credit is due, as the men’s team had its fair share of issues to address before the season began, but through adversity, The Rock came out strong as ever.
Unphased, the team has banded together, making sure to hold each other accountable. Now 22 games in, these men are not just teammates, they are brothers, something that Coach Grady can attest to.
“One of the keys to our success this year was the ability to come together and stay together as a family,” Grady said. “It has helped us play well, and I believe that is one of our biggest strengths this season.”
The Green and White now sits at an overall record of 15-7, with a tidy 12-3 record in conference play. SRU also ranks No. 2 in the PSAC-West in both offense and defense this season, tallying an impressive 82.0 points per game while only yielding 73.1 points per game.
If the season ended today, The Rock would clinch a first-round bye, as The Rock sits second in the PSAC West, only trailing nationally ranked No. 4 IUP.
After churning out win after win, including a 12-game win streak in which SRU did not drop a game in nearly a two-month span The Rock has certainly put the PSAC on notice. As the leader of the Green and White squad that has been a force in the PSAC this season, Coach Grady made it clear that each athlete on the roster has been a pivotal piece in this season’s puzzle.
“I don’t believe that anyone is less or more valuable. I have always said that the value to the team is not measured by minutes played,” Grady said. “Everyone has a role on the team and they have executed well, so I am proud of everyone.”
However, after enjoying one of the longest win streaks across Division II this season, the team has fallen back, dropping two of the last three contests.
Coach Grady gave some insight as to how the team can avoid becoming complacent to capture that coveted first-round bye, before the rapidly approaching postseason begins.
“No matter what the circumstances are, there can always be adjustments made to get better. We have lost two of the last three in tough road environments, and in both games we lost, we have not defended at the level that we are capable of,” Grady said. “If we can perform better on the defensive side of the ball, I am sure that will bode well for us coming down the stretch.”
With six games left in the season, Slippery Rock controls its own destiny in the postseason, when it comes to determining how they will be seeded.
The Rock maintains a one-game lead over Mercyhurst in the PSAC-West, who they had beaten earlier in the season in a double overtime thriller in which The Rock downed the Lakers by a final score of 92-91.
Nonetheless, the two teams will meet again on Feb. 13 at Morrow Field House in a rematch that has colossal playoff implications. However, Coach Grady is adamant that the next game the team plays is always the most important.
“First thing is first; our focus is on Saturday when we are going up against Seton Hill. It won’t be an easy game by any means; it’s another road game against a team that is playing well right now. We need to focus on Seton Hill now, get the win, and when the time comes, turn our attention to Mercyhurst,” Grady said.