The Slippery Rock men’s basketball team was back on the road this past Saturday to face the Clarion University Golden Eagles in another Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) matchup. Despite an underwhelming shooting performance (.361 from the field), The Rock was able to fend off Clarion thanks to some late game heroics. The win improves Slippery Rock’s record to an overall record of 18-7 and 15-3 in PSAC play while Clarion drops to 5-17 overall and 3-14 in conference play.
The win moves Slippery Rock one step closer to capturing a first-round bye in the PSAC Tournament, as they are nipping at the heels of Indiana University (Pa.) who resides only a half-game ahead in the PSAC-West standings. To clinch a first-round bye, The Rock must win just one of its remaining three games, or a loss by Mercyhurst in any of its last four games, according to Athletic Communication.
Slippery Rock had trouble getting into a groove on Saturday, as they endured one of their more lackadaisical performances of the season. The Green and White were only able to muster 27 points in the first half against one of the weaker defenses in the PSAC, a defense in which they unloaded 97 points on earlier in the season.
Surprisingly enough, those 27 points were enough for The Rock to maintain a one-point lead heading into halftime, as Clarion failed to find the bottom of the basket for the last 8:09 of the first half.
For the majority of the second half, SRU would maintain a lead, as the Golden Eagles fell ice cold in the second half, going scoreless for a stretch of 11:38. The Rock did manage to separate themselves from Clarion with a seven-point advantage midway through the second half, but poor shooting once again let the Golden Eagles claw their way back into contention.
With 2:35 to go in the game, Clarion took their first lead of the second half, threatening to upset the Green and White. Clarion would go on to hold that lead until the clock had ten ticks left, as senior Nolan Gerald displayed his vision on the court, finding a wide-open Vinny Lasley under the hoop for what would be a game-sealing lay-up.
The Golden Eagles had one final chance to recapture their lead with a mid-range jumper, but the shot was off the mark, granting Slippery Rock its third consecutive victory.
Despite the loss, Clarion outmatched Slippery Rock in nearly every statistical category, out-rebounding SRU 44-32 and shooting 43 percent, a rate that was 7 percent higher than The Rock’s.
John Warren II led the way in scoring for SRU with a game-high 13 points. Gerald was the only other Slippery Rock player to score in double figures as he tallied on 10 points of his own with four assists. Lasley fell just one point short of recording another double-double, as he registered nine points and 11 rebounds.
Slippery Rock will now look to down Edinboro University Wednesday night at the Morrow Field House as they look to clinch a first-round bye in the PSAC playoffs. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.