|Frank Webb photo courtesy Gannon University and Joe Mattis|
The two players who jumped out to me this week were guard Jair Green and backup point Frank Webb. During Gannon's three-game losing streak that stretched from late November to early December, Green scored just single digits in two of those contests and Webb saw just five minutes of playing time including two DNPs. And nobody in the Gannon basketball community complained about their lack of production. Most of us expected Green and Webb to have college careers as unremarkable as former Knights Derrick Bryant and Tom Drumm. (I didn't think you'd remember them).
But on Saturday against Millersville, the always aggressive Green scored a team-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting while Webb dazzled with 13 points on a 6-for-7 chart. What Green and Webb bring to the floor besides those numbers is a palpable energy. Green is constantly stress-testing the defense looking for gaps (make sure you see his thunderdunk vs. Seton Hill from last week) while Webb moves the ball north/south even when the Knights don't have numbers. Plus, they're ballhawks on defense and crash the glass on both ends. Green and Webb make their share of mistakes at times, but they also ensure that GU won't lose due to a lack of aggression.
Gannon is entering its toughest stretch of games over these next two weeks -- including Wednesday at Slippery Rock and Feb. 3 at IUP -- but it's great to know their new-look turbocharged offense has many parts they can call on.
Other Knight Knotes from this week:
- While Gannon has a deep bench and many talented players to choose from, it was evident Wednesday that Mercyhurst doesn't have that luxury. Only two players, starting guards Lorenzo Collier and Malcom Walters, consistently look to score while everybody else out there seems like their main role is to move the ball or rebound. During a first half Gannon run, Laker coach Gary Manchel looked up and down his bench twice for player to provide a spark, didn't see anything he liked, and decided to make due with who he had on the floor until the next media time out.
- Sitting at the end of the press table next to the opposing bench can be feast-or-famine for me. Manchel is a thrill to watch operate. He's constantly changing plays, instructing his players, and bantering with officials. I can't see what he draws on his whiteboard during timeouts, but it's clear that he and his players are working together to figure out how to beat their opponent. Millersville was the opposite. I honestly think our United States Congress today is more cooperative then the Marauders were with each other ... and the federal government just went into shutdown. Words I wrote during the game to describe the Ville were "selfish" and "easily frustrated" and my notes for head coach Casey Stitzel were "complaining not coaching." I won't speak out of school and share a bunch of the specific comments I overheard, but I think I heard this question posed to his assistants about 50 times Saturday. The atmosphere was so negative from the opening tip that by halftime I wanted to transfer seats.
- We've talked this year about tracking scoring in five-minute increments, and this week's games didn't disappoint. Gannon's defensive chart against Mercyhurst was tremendous in the first half: 4, 2, 5, 6. The second half saw a defensive lapse in the middle -- 5, 14, 9, 5 -- but eventually the Knights wore the Lakers down. Gannon's scoring vs. Millersville was eerily consistent -- first half 9, 14, 11, 10; second half 12, 10, 10, 10. We've said that allowing two consecutive double-digit five-minute blocks can cost you a game. Seven consecutive will get you blown out of the gym.
- Gannon didn't just consistently outscore Millersville; they consistently murdered them on the boards. At the half, Gannon had a 17-8 rebounding advantage and finished the game with a 42-20 edge. Gannon held the Marauders 13 rebounds and 18 points below their season averages.
- I just realized GU played two MU's this week, though being an old timer, I will forever think of the first MU as MC.
- I was happy to see rarely used reserves Mike Haysbert, Naseem Hadrab, and Sean Colosimo get some playing time Saturday, and I was ecstatic to see them "play right." They moved the ball on offense, fought for rebounds like crazy, and defended as hard as the Gannon starters. You can tell a lot about a team's culture and standards based on the way their end of bench players act on the court.
- For those of you negative Nelly Gannon fans who are starving during this nine-game, 41-day winning streak, I do have a nugget for you. The Doritos I bought at the concession stand Saturday had an expiration date of Nov. 1, 2017, and they honestly tasted like a napkin rolled in seasoning. I'm calling AD Lisa Goddard McGuirk right now -- heads had better roll!