SLIPPERY ROCK — For the first time since the 2001-02 season, the Slippery Rock University women’s basketball team defeated No. 10 California University (Pa.) last Saturday as The Rock beat the nationally-ranked Vulcans, 72-61, at Morrow Field House.
The victory snapped The Rock’s 35-game losing streak to the Vulcans and also provided Slippery Rock with a slight measure of revenge from earlier in the season when SRU was unable to hold onto an 11-point fourth quarter lead in a loss at California on Jan. 9.
The win was also crucial for The Rock’s postseason chances this season as SRU was able to snap a three-game losing streak to improve its record in to 9-11 overall and 7-7 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Western Division standings. California exits Morrow Field House at 18-2 overall and 12-2 in league games.
With seven conference games remaining in the regular season, Slippery Rock finds itself in a three-way tie for fourth place in the division; the top six teams in the PSAC West standings at the end of the year qualify for the PSAC Tournament.
Saturday’s win was a complete team effort as all nine players who took the court for The Rock played a key role in the victory.
Newly-minted 1,000-point scorer Brooke Hinderliter of Redbank Valley scored a game-best 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made three steals over 34 minutes. Hinderliter went 7-for-16 from the field overall and helped seal the win by going a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line. Her 13 successful free throws were the third most in a single-game in program history.
Madison Johnson came off the bench to record her first collegiate double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with a pair of steals. Like Hinderliter, Johnson’s free throw shooting was clutch for The Rock on Saturday as the redshirt junior made all nine of her foul shots. Johnson has averaged 15 points per game over her last four games played.
LeeAnn Gibson and Daeja Quick scored 10 points apiece as well. The double-digit effort was the second straight 10-point showing for Gibson and Quick’s highest scoring output over the last nine games.
Ciara Patterson and Morgan Henderson rounded out The Rock’s scorers with four and two points, respectively. Henderson, the PSAC’s leading rebounder also pulled down 10 rebounds, and blocked one shot while making Seairra Barrett, one of the top players in the Atlantic Region, work for every point she scored Saturday. While Barrett finished with 26 points, she did so on just 9-of-26 shooting from the field.
The Vulcans jumped out to a seven-point lead early in the second quarter, but Slippery Rock rallied back by ending the opening half on a 20-2 run to take a 36-29 lead into the break
Slippery Rock went on to build its lead out to a game-high 12 points over the opening four minutes of the third quarter and with 6:12 left in the period SRU found itself ahead 44-32. As one would expect from a top-10 team, California proceeded to battle back with a 21-8 spurt of its own over the following 12 minutes, pushing ahead of The Rock, 53-52, with 5:42 left in regulation.
However, unlike the first meeting of the season when Slippery Rock faltered down the stretch and had no answer for a late Vulcans surge, SRU was able to regroup, adjust to a tough California full court press, battle through foul trouble and come up with timely baskets, clutch foul shooting and tenacious defense to earn arguably the biggest victory for the program in the last 20 years.
The decisive run started by Slippery Rock rattling off eight straight points over a three-minute stretch to jump back in front of California, 60-53, with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter. Hinderliter scored four of the eight points over the run with Gibson and Patterson adding one bucket each
Any thoughts of a late California comeback were promptly put to rest as SRU held California to just two made field goals on seven attempts over the final two minutes of regulation while Hinderliter and Johnson combined to go a perfect 12-for-12 from the foul line on the offensive end of the floor for The Rock to preserve the upset-victory.
Slippery Rock held the normally potent California offense to season-lows in points scored and field goal percentage (.319 / 22-for-69) in addition to forcing 20 turnovers and limiting the Vulcans to an 18.8 3-point shooting percentage (3-for-16).
As a team, Slippery Rock shot 40.7 percent (22-for-54) from the field overall and a stellar 84.4 percent (27-for-32) from the free throw line. Both The Rock and Vulcans finished the contest with 42 rebounds and 23 points off turnovers.
Slippery Rock will look to carry over its momentum from Saturday’s win into its next game, a showdown at No. 5 Indiana University (Pa.) Saturday. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.