Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Seton Hill 59, Gannon 57 (Wed.); at Le Moyne (Sat.)

Please post your comments about this week's games below. That way, you can share your thoughts during or right after the games, and I'll just enter my post over this old one so my game-related thoughts and your comments are in the same entry. For live stats and game notes from GannonSports.com, just click here.

Go Knights!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kuteyi Escapes Doghouse, Rescues Gannon's Perfect Week

One of my all-time favorite Golden Knights is Mitchell Smith, an impact player on Gannon's best-ever teams who was regularly described as "high flying" and "spectacular." The guy could jump out of the gym, hit from long distance -- I adored his one-handed release -- and occasionally would connect on mid-range jumpers with his opposite hand. But when Gannon fans reminisce about Smith, we often whitewash his career by forgetting about his defense. Or his lack thereof. During long possessions, Smitty would often drift away from his man, locating him only when he finished an uncontested layup.

One of my favorite players on this Gannon team is junior guard Kevin Kuteyi. Despite being Gannon's most consistent outside threat -- his 36 threes are the most on the team and he ranks second on the club at 11.0 ppg -- Kuteyi's time has been limited recently. In Gannon's 71-56 home win Wednesday vs. Clarion, he didn't see one second of action, receiving an all-too-familiar-to-me DNP-CD (Did Not Play - Coach's Decision). Three games before that against Slippery Rock, he started but played only three minutes. Guys who start and lock themselves in the bathroom during halftime still see more than three minutes of play.

Why the limited PT? Let's just say he's a lot like Mitchell Smith. If you watch closely, Kuteyi will occasionally trail his opponent when he's supposed to cut through the middle and then cut through the middle when he's supposed to be trailing. When you have a defensive-oriented coach like John Reilly calling the shots, those actions will earn you a spot on the pine no matter how many baskets you score.

Kuteyi was in the doghouse again Saturday afternoon at Pitt-Johnstown. He played just one minute during regulation time -- during which he committed two first-half turnovers -- before re-entering the game early in overtime when Tony Boykins fouled out. Despite all Kuteyi has accomplished this season (he made the Gary Miller Classic all-tournament team), you couldn't expect a kid who played just one minute the entire week to positively impact the team at this juncture. In fact, less than 90 seconds after Kuteyi took the floor, the Knights were trailing UPJ in OT by six, 74-68.

But after baskets by Ian Gardener and C.J. Asuncion-Byrd, the Knights trailed by only three with under two minutes to play. That's when Kuteyi stepped up, burying a left-wing trey to tie the game at 76. Just 30 seconds later, Kuteyi caught the ball on the right side -- in front of the coaches who played him only because they had to -- and without hesitation drilled a three that gave Gannon a lead it would never relinquish. Kuteyi screamed, the Gannon bench erupted, and, after surviving a Kuteyi turnover that nearly gave the game away, an imperfect team celebrated a perfect week with an 80-79 overtime victory.

I know standings-wise this game is meaningless and the win only really means we probably won't lose 20 games, but I still savor moments like this. Despite his reduced floor time, Kuteyi has remained enthusiastic and supportive of his teammates. It's great to see a kid like that get rewarded.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Edinboro 74, Gannon 61 (Wed.); Indiana 79, Gannon 67 (Sat.)

Sorry I didn't post anything after last week's games. My schedule got full with travel, work, coaching, and family activities. I barely found time to sulk about Gannon's two losses to longtime rivals. I will try to do better going forward. But even if I mail it in the rest of the year, this would still be the best basketball blog in the country for a sub-.500 Division II team.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Knights Stick Together, Rally Past Rock

Through 74 minutes of basketball this week, Gannon was mired in a dreadful stretch. After their offense hit a snow drift in a 48-37 loss Wednesday night at Mercyhurst, the Knights trailed a mediocre Slippery Rock team at home by 8, 58-50, with six minutes to play Saturday afternoon. But at that point Jean Yves Toupane came to life, scoring 18 points in a game-ending 21-8 spurt to secure a 71-66 victory over SRU.

Two thoughts popped into my brain as the final horn sounded. First, it's nice to see a win after Gannon had dropped 10 of its previous 11 games. Second, why couldn't this have happened 10 months ago when Slippery Rock upset #2 seed Gannon in the NCAA first round?!? I should probably see a doctor because even when Gannon wins this season I somehow end up with an excruciating headache.

To me, the word of the day for the Pink Zone and Hall of Fame game was "together." John Reilly rarely subbed in players during the second half and had Tony Boykins and Isiah Eisendorf not been plagued with foul trouble, we might have just watched 5 guys play 20 straight minutes to close out a game. Despite tired legs and a deficit, that crew stuck together, kicked their turnover habit, and executed down the stretch.

The bench was together as well. With a now 4-13 record and essentially nothing to play for -- or not play for in their case -- the guys who sat most of the second period were as enthusiastic as last year's PSAC champs. I especially noted the actions of Kevin Kuteyi, who started the game, hit a three, picked up two fouls, and played just the first three minutes of the game before rotting on the bench the rest of the way. A smiling Kuteyi was exhorting his teammates on the floor with his arms around the players next to him on the bench, worried more about a win than his playing time.

Togetherness was also on my mind because instead of finding my own seat behind the opponent's bench like I do most games, I sat in the Section D bleachers with my former Gannon teammates Gregg Blair, James Henderson, and their families. Big Daddy -- I can't call him Jim like his family does -- was at the Hammermill to root on his daughter Morgan, a freshman on the Slippery Rock women's team. While watching a teammate's college-aged daughter play made me feel really, really old, that was overshadowed by the stories and comments we shared with each other during both games.

It reminded me that the games we won or didn't win back in the day really didn't matter that much. Supporting each other during our college careers and 25 years beyond matters way more than where we finished in the conference.

On that note, I'd like to ask the commenters on this blog to stick together and treat each other with respect. There's no reason to fight because we all agree on so many things:
  • Motherhood
  • Apple pie
  • America is the best country in the world
  • We all love Gannon hoops
  • Tom Chapman is the best donut delivery man ever
  • Mother Teresa is our second favorite mother
  • Donald Trump is a rude, ego-maniacal, blowhard who could learn a thing or two hundred from Mother Teresa
  • No one will ever break Glen Summors' rebounding record
  • Snow makes Erieites tougher than the rest of the country
So please stop exchanging insults even if Gannon loses every game from here on out. Let's show folks that no matter what the team's record, we Gannon fans stick together.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bleak Week

There was a time in Gannon basketball history when a road contest vs. a 5-10 club and a home game against a 6-9 team meant a perfect 2-0 week was all but assured. That time was last year. And the year before. Heck, pretty much every season in program history the Knights would mop the floor with those opponents. But this year has been unlike any other as Gannon lost Wednesday at Cal, 56-54, on a three at the buzzer and then fell Saturday vs. Seton Hill, 69-62.

I honest to goodness don't even know what to say at the point when the highly respected program I've worshiped for 30+ years is one loss away from matching the Cleveland Browns mark of a 3-13 season. And Gannon's next game is at 12-4 Mercyhurst who last time out won at Seton Hill by 19. And the game before that at Pitt-Johnstown (who beat Gannon by 4 on Dec. 19) the Lakers blitzed the Mountain Cats by more than 50 points, 89-37. In less than one year, we've gone from expecting to win every game against our local rivals to hoping we keep the game within 40.

Due to work and coaching commitments, I was able to only watch the second half of the game at Cal this week, so I can't offer any more analysis beyond that. Let's hope the players' energy level is higher than mine is right now.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Guest Columnist: Gannon Assistant AD Dan Teliski

In the comments section of the previous post, "Bob" wrote: You are talking about an administration who when confronted by an alumnus complaining on how the athletic program was doing commented with "Why are you getting all excited we are only a division ll program?"

In response, Gannon Assistant Director of Athletics for Media Relations Dan Teliski sent me this email Saturday morning. I didn't want his thoughts to be buried among the comments from games that took place several days ago, so I'm posting his complete email here as a guest column.

-----------------------------

Good morning Jim,


I hope all is well. As you know, I am not one to participate in blogs with so many other responsibilities that I have. However, someone brought to my attention a recent comment made regarding how our athletics department isn’t doing well. I felt the need to set the record straight.

Unfortunately, our men’s basketball team is suffering through a subpar season. However, to say our athletics department is not performing well because of one team’s subpar season is a misguided and uneducated statement. First, we are currently 37th out of over 300 NCAA Division II schools in the Learfield Directors’ Cup which determines the best athletics department in the country.

In the last 1 ½ years …

  1. Women’s Soccer was No. 1 in the country
  2. Women’s Volleyball advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, making its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance
  3. Football won the PSAC Western Division
  4. Women’s Cross Country had an individual finish second at the PSAC Championships
  5. Men’s Golf had a PSAC champion and made its third consecutive NCAA Tournament team appearance
  6. Men’s Basketball won the PSAC Championship and recorded its third straight 20-win season
  7. Women’s Basketball played in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament with its fourth straight 20-win season
  8. Softball advanced to the PSAC Softball Championship Game and played in the NCAA Tournament
  9. Men’s Water Polo won the CWPA Division II Championship
  10. Acrobatics and Tumbling advanced to the National Elite Eight
  11. Competitive Cheer finished sixth nationally
  12. The University built the only indoor turfed facility in the state among non-DI schools. It also constructed one of the top wrestling rooms that is comparable to big-time NCAA Division I programs, as well as new state-of-the-art weight rooms, human performance labs, etc.
  13. Finished eighth out of 18 teams in the PSAC Dixon Trophy standings, including No. 1 among the three Erie County schools.
  14. Sixteen of Gannon’s 20 programs qualified for the postseason, including 12 of its 16 PSAC sports
  15. Ten Gannon teams participated in the national postseason
  16. Last year’s athletic honors included 57 conference players of the week, 73 all-conference selections, 32 all-region selections and seven All-Americans.
  17. Gannon had student-athletes sign professional contracts in baseball, football and basketball.
  18. Baseball had a pitcher drafted in the 19th round of the MLB Draft.


Within our community …

  1. Our student-athletes performed 3,758 service hours during the 2014-15 academic year.
  2. Our student-athletes raised nearly $20,000 for local charities during the 2014-15 academic year.


And academically …

  1. Gannon’s 515 student-athletes produced an overall 3.25 grade point average during the 2015 fall semester.
  2. Nearly 66 percent of the students playing sports at Gannon achieved a 3.0 GPA or better. Thirty-two student-athletes recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA during the fall semester.
  3. The 11 women’s intercollegiate teams produced a combined 3.37 GPA. In fact, all 11 teams achieved a team GPA of 2.91 or better.
  4. The nine men’s intercollegiate teams produced a combined 3.12 GPA. All nine men's programs had a GPA of 2.86 or better.
  5. A school-record 200 Gannon student-athletes (we had 405 student-athletes last year) were named PSAC Scholar-Athletes (1,228 named PSAC Scholar-Athletes during Gannon’s seven years in the PSAC)
  6. 49 percent of Gannon’s student-athletes (we had 405 student-athletes last year) were named PSAC Scholar-Athletes, the highest percentage among all PSAC Schools. Gannon had the top percentage six times in the last seven years, including each of the last three.


I could go on and on. But I believe I made my point. I would like to stress that we believe our athletics department is actually doing very well despite a subpar men’s basketball season. We are very proud of our 515 student-athletes and believe we are producing quality citizens who are successful in the world upon graduation.

Thank you for your time and thank you everyone who supports Gannon Athletics. Despite bumps in the road, we will continue to stress to be the best in all we do. We won’t always be the best in everything we do, but that remains our goal. As our latest marketing department campaign says … #GUbelieve. Go Knights!

Dan Teliski
Gannon Assistant Director of Athletics for Media Relations

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Just My Luck

I am as big a Gannon basketball fan as Donald Trump is an arrogant blowhard. Huuuuuuge! I've watched this Golden Knight team closely -- both home and away (thank you internets) -- this entire season and I've been waiting and waiting to see this sputtering club find a decent rhythm. So isn't it my luck that I can watch every dreadful minute of Sunday's 80-49 shellacking at Kutztown but, because I coached my daughter's basketball practice Wednesday night, I could only take in the ragged second half of Gannon's 80-67 win over hapless Mansfield.

In the first half against the Mounties, Gannon raced out to a 49-29 lead thanks to 11 three pointers. C.J. Byrd (5-for-9) and Kevin Kuteyi (5-for-6) led the way, causing my brother to text me that they are the new Splash Brothers. I hoped to actually see some of that great action in the second half but instead the Knights reverted to what I saw Sunday. Mansfield is like old Lock Haven awful but they outscored GU by 7 over the error-filled final 20 minutes, which caused me to run to the mirror to check if my eyes were bleeding.

If you read this post's comments by Gannon fans -- thanks for sharing your thoughts by the way -- folks are complaining about everything from the coaching to the attendance to the PSAC to the lack of dunks by this Gannon team. I could detail several spots I think this team is lacking talentwise, but I'll focus on just one simple area.

On offense, Gannon rarely dribbles by anyone; on defense, they are frequently beaten off the dribble. This may sound like advice I need to give my third and fourth grade girls team, but the key on offense is to get the easiest shot possible. Gannon is too often all-pass, no-penetrate which leads to turnovers and contested shots. Opponents on the other hand are regularly in the lane scoring layups, kicking out for a three, or getting fouled.

As Golden89 detailed in the comments, Gannon has been outscored this year from the free throw line by a decisive margin -- now up to 59 points after the Mansfield win. There's an even wider gap in attempts: 326 for opponents vs. just 230 for our Knights. Where are those fouls happening? If you guessed "On perimeter jump shots?", you're banned from visiting this website ever again. The team that gets fouled is the one who is not only more aggressive but who has the athletic ability to get around their man.

I was glad to see -- I mean hear about -- Gannon finding its shooting touch against Mansfield. But I hope we have an uptick in layups and victories from here on out.