WEST LIBERTY, WV – Coming into today’s game, Slippery Rock had never won an NCAA Tournament game that was a compensation game.
But today at West Liberty the number 7 seed Slippery Rock upset number 2 seed Winston Salem in the first round of the NCAA Division 2 Men’s Basketball Championship, 69-67.
Slippery Rock clawed away at Winston Salem the entire game, but could never seem to pull away. It took the final seconds to decided a hard fought battle between the two teams.
Winston Salem took a 38-32 lead into the locker room, but it was hard fought. Slippery Rock battled the entire first half, only holding the lead for a brief time. Devin Taylor was playing like a man possessed. He had 17 points and 9 rebounds in the first half, including a three with a hand in his face to give The Rock a 30-29 lead with 3:35 left in the half. “I just wanted to be a spark,” Taylor said of his strong play in the first half.
Winston Salem was paced in the first half by a balanced offense from Michel-Ofik Nzege and Justin Glover, scoring 12 and 10 points respectively. The Rams were out-rebounded 21-18 in the first half, which allowed The Rock to hang around at the half.
In the second half, it was the same story. Winston Salem hit shot after shot and Slippery just kept biting at their feet.
Slippery Rock looked to control the tempo of the game and control the ball. “The longer you have [the ball] the more dangerous you are,” Coach Reynolds said of his team.
Down 66-61 late in the second half, something sparked for The Rock. They pushed the pace and capitalized on key turnovers down the stretch. Winston Salem, who made 9 of 10 free throws in the first half, couldn’t make them at all it seemed in the final two minutes.
On Slippery Rock’s final possession, Sa’Quan Davis drove to the rim and dished it out at the last second to a trailing Tabari Perry who kissed it off the glass for the eventual game winning lay-up. “I didn’t think he saw me,” Perry said of the play.
Winston Salem had one final chance and took a highly contested three pointer in the corner that was blocked by two Slippery Rock players and secured a 69-67 victory for The Rock.
Taylor finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
“Tomorrow night is going to be a very good game,” Coach Reynolds said.
Slippery Rock will take on IUP in the 2nd round at 5:00 from West Liberty tomorrow.