That's the opportunity Gannon has next week, though I'm sure John Reilly and the Knights won't view it that way. They'll focus on stopping the 29-4 Central Missouri Mules (that's right -- the Mules!) one defensive possession at a time. Central Missouri averages 80.1 ppg and shoots 46% from the floor, 39% from 3-point range. The love to shoot the 3; in 33 games, UCMO has hit 269 treys while Gannon, who isn't shy about shooting from the outside, has made 172 over 32 games. The Mules are 17-0 at home and 6-0 in neutral-site games, including three consecutive OT wins in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAA) tournament. For more on the team that could deny Gannon the Final Four, go to www.ucmo.edu/athletics/mules/.
Other thoughts while trying to stop my ears from ringing after listening to two-plus hours of screaming Gannon fans (myself included) yesterday:
- You can't teach a defense in one day. Kutztown, who Erieites got to see play several times this year, showed consistently that their attitude was shoot first, play defense later ... maybe ... if we feel like it. When they tried a 1-3-1 trap against Gannon yesterday, the Knights quickly diced it and sliced it, resulting in a wide open Cory Knight 3-pointer. If KU would have worked harder on their defense beginning Oct. 15, they might have had a happier bus trip home yesterday.
- Speaking of that, I couldn't help but feel bad for the two busloads of Kutztown fans as I saw them file onto their Greyhounds after the game. They looked like delinquents begrudgingly stumbling onto the school bus for the first day of classes.
- Several Gannon fans (myself included) were disappointed that the final play of Kyle Goldcamp's career at the Hammermill Center was a technical for mouthing off to a Kutztown player. I'm not criticizing the ref; the T was well deserved. What did not disappoint me was the reaction of his teammates and coaches. When a GU player leaves the game, the team members almost always rise from their seats and applaud. I didn't see the Knights do that when Goldcamp left the game (the T was his 5th foul). Instead, Goldcamp quietly took a seat next to the coaches and received some strong words (and looks that could kill) from Coach Reilly. Goldcamp lost his emotions, and I was glad that his team was holding him accountable.
- Conversely, when Golden Bear David Ben gave a cheap shot to Mark Demski while scrambling for a loose ball -- Ben intentially drove his shoulder into the back of Demski's head while he was lying on the floor -- what did the KU staff do? Nothing. Oh, they saw it, but winning was more important than playing the game right. Ben scored over 2,000 points in his college career, but I'll remember him for his lack of sportsmanship.
- Furthermore, Ben still didn't score as many points as a collegian as McDowell grad and Gannon Hoops follower Lucas Marsh, who poured in over 2,200 at Geneva College.
- Did you see Cory Knight's stat line from last night? Not only did he play stellar defense, but in 28 minutes, he tallied 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting, 9 assists, and 0 turnovers. I know he didn't make the all-tournament team (that's usually reserved for the big scorers), but let's be real: Gannon's season would be over if they didn't have Knight's spark off the bench.
- Dave Wilson's production and playing time are way down from when he started 21 games earlier this season (Wilson played only 3 minutes last night). But that dude's intensity hasn't dropped one iota. From even before the opening tip through the end of the game, he pushes his teammates harder than a constipated drill sergeant and cheers for them with more passion than their mothers. And when Wilson gets into the game, he's like the Tasmanian Devil. To me, he symbolizes this team-first, play-hard Gannon team.
- I think swearing in public is highly inappropriate, but with Central Missouri's nickname being the Mules, is it acceptable to say when Gannon scores on a fast break that they beat the Asses down the floor?