SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University’s men’s basketball team made a jaw-dropping 95.7% of its free throws Saturday afternoon en route to an 88-77 win over visiting Pitt-Johnstown in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division action in Morrow Field House.
SRU sank its first six charity tosses before senior guard Sa’Quan Davis missed the first of a two-shot opportunity at the midway mark of the second half.
The Rock then coolly canned the final 16 shots from the foul line to finish the game with a 22-of-23 efficiency that is believed to be the best in program history.
SRU’s hot shooting touch wasn’t confined to just the charity stripe, though. The Green and White also made 48% (28 of 58) of its field-goal attempts and a 48% (10 of 21) showing from 3-point range in the process of improving its season records to 17-7 overall and 8-4 in PSAC West action.
Most importantly, Saturday’s win assured The Rock of a fourth consecutive appearance in the conference tournament and the fifth postseason trip in six seasons under head coach Kevin Reynolds’ leadership.
The top six teams in the division standings at the conclusion of regular-season play Feb. 26 advance to the conference’s single-elimination tournament.
The Rock currently stand alone in fourth place in the division standings and travel to third-place Mercyhurst (12-9, 8-3 PSAC-West) for a 7:30 p.m. game Wednesday.
Like The Rock, Pitt-Johnstown (12-10 overall, 5-7 PSAC West) also shot the basketball well from the field Saturday. The Mountain Cats made 46% (27 of 59) of their action shots and hit 40% (6 of 15) of their 3-point attempts, but struggled from the foul line, where they made 17 of 25 (68% ).
The Rock also held a 36-31 advantage in rebounds to offset 10 turnovers, compared to nine miscues for the guests.
Senior center Maurice Lewis-Briggs again led The Rock effort with team-high totals of 17 points and eight rebounds. Lewis-Briggs was 5-for-5 on foul shots.
Junior guard Antonio Butler contributed 16 points, all of which came in the second half of action, with six rebounds and a 4-for-4 showing from the foul line in a substitute role and junior forward Kelvin Dixon had 14 points with a 7-for-7 performance at the foul line.
Senior swingman Tabari Perry chipped in 10 points (2-for-2 at the foul line), sophomore swingman Erik Raleigh scored nine points (1-for-1 at the line) and six rebounds, while Davis added nine points and six assists with a 3-for-4 effort at the foul line.
Ian Vescovi scored a game-high 23 points for Pitt-Johnstown while Bill Luther added 13 points and Matt Palo chipped in 11 points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Rock appeared to have the game well in hand midway through the first half of action thanks to a 17-2 run that gave the hosts a 24-10 lead with 9:30 left before the intermission.
But UPJ refused to go quietly and outscored SRU by a 25-17 margin in the final nine-plus minutes of the first half to trim the margin to six points, 41-35, at halftime.
The guests carried their momentum over the start of the second half of action as they scored the first 10 points to take a 45-41 lead with 17:15 left to play.
Five lead changes and four lead changes later, The Rock regained the lead for good on a layup by Lewis-Briggs with 7:30 remaining.
That basket started a 7-0 Rock run that pushed SRU’s lead to six, 64-58, one minute later before Pitt-Johnstown made its final run and trimmed the gap to three points, 68-65, with 4:15 left.
The Rock sank 10 consecutive free throws and had two layups and two 3-point shots in the final four minutes to ice the win.
SRU’s next home game is Feb. 19, when Edinboro comes to town for an 8 p.m. game.
Sports Information Director
Slippery Rock University
1 Morrow Way - Room 201 Old Main
Slippery Rock, Pa. 16057
A ROCK SOLID Education