“Absolutely. No doubt in my mind.”
Slippery Rock head coach Bobby McGraw had no reservations when asked about the Slippery Rock women’s basketball team’s chances of clinching a spot in the conference tournament.
His comments came despite a defeat to Edinboro University, 88-77, at Morrow Field House Wednesday evening.
The Green and White (10-15, 8-11 PSAC) fell behind early during a disastrous first quarter of play. Leading 28-13 at the end of the quarter, the Fighting Scots (18-6, 13-5) connected on five of their nine first-quarter three-point attempts.
“The threes we gave up in the first half shouldn’t have happened,” McGraw stated. “Jontay Walton is one of the best guards in this league, she can get to the rim and she can shoot threes. We needed to make it more difficult on her in the first half and we didn’t. Great job in the second half; she was six of nine from three-point range in the first half and finished six of 12.”
Over the course of the final three quarters, The Rock outscored the Fighting Scots 64-60, but the fifteen-point first quarter deficit was too much to overcome.
“Walton only scored five points in the second half. She was the difference in this game. She had twenty at halftime, and we had such a deficit to overcome in the second half,” McGraw said. “We just never got over that hump to bring this thing all the way back.”
McGraw expressed that the defensive effort in the first half led to some easy three-pointers for the Fighting Scots—who finished with 11 three-point baskets—and the overall effort levels did not meet his expectations.
“Just better effort. There was nothing schematically we did differently; the defensive effort in the second half was just better. I couldn’t be prouder of the job we did on the glass. We beat Edinboro by 13 on the glass.”
Redshirt senior guard Ciara Patterson connected on three of the Green and White’s five three-pointers and led the team with 20 points on seven of 14 shooting. Patterson currently ranks third in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with 62 made three-pointers.
Following Patterson’s fifth foul and subsequent fouling out, the senior leader was visibly dejected. McGraw expressed how he and Patterson are two peas in a pod in regard to playing style.
“We’ve had this discussion before. Ciara Patterson takes getting beat on defense personally, she takes missing shots personally,” said McGraw. “I like coaching players who take things personally and play with a sense of urgency.”
With Patterson out of the game for any stretch of time, the perimeter threat for the Green and White greatly diminishes. Besides Patterson, no Rock player ranks in the top-25 in the conference for three-point field goals made.
McGraw said that despite the loss of firepower, he is confident in the team to score in a variety of different ways.
Junior guard Brooke Hinderliter and redshirt junior guard Madison Johnson rounded out the double-digit scorers.
Hinderliter recorded her first double-double of the season with 17 points, on six of 19 shooting, and 10 rebounds. Johnson was one rebound short after scoring 15 points and pulling in nine rebounds.
As the season winds down, The Rock’s multiple game lead over Gannon University for the final playoff spot has evaporated following back-to-back losses.
The University of Pitt-Johnstown sits fifth in the PSAC-West, a half game up on the Green and White, while Gannon sits seventh at a half game back. The Rock will play both UPJ and Gannon for their last two league games of the season.
McGraw has stressed that the approach at this junction of the season involves having a short memory and staying focused for the crucial games ahead.
“It’s like Clint Hurdle says, shower off this loss and get ready for UPJ. Stakes are high and we all know that. We can talk about it in the locker room and see that in the previews, but we know what’s on the line. We will be ready for Saturday, I promise you that,” McGraw said.
The Rock will be in action on the road against UPJ this Saturday in a matchup with huge PSAC-West seeding implications.
Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.