Before each of Gannon's local rivalry games, I recall the words that Jim Rocco told me nearly 25 years ago when he was a senior and I was but a freshman for the Knights. "When Edinboro or Mercyhurst play Gannon, they come out as if they have just seen God," Rocco said. "For the first 10 minutes of the game, they can't miss." Tonight it was the Golden Knights' turn for a divine apparition, racing to a 24-6 lead in near-flawless fashion. What was even more stunning was that 10 of GU's points during that spree came from Tanner Furno, who made a rare second-semester start. He totaled an impressive stat line before fouling out in the game's closing seconds: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 7-for-11 from the field, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers in 32 minutes.
While Furno may have been the individual star of the game, you also have to give a lot of credit to Gannon's perimeter defense in the 71-59 win. As a team, the Lakers were just 4-for-20 on three-pointers. The difference was John Reilly's game plan to guard a step or two beyond the three point line -- both on the ball and frequently away from the ball. Laker starter Heiden Ratner, who I think is one of the most complete guards in the PSAC West, was held to just 4 points and 4 field goal attempts. When GU played the Lakers at the MAC, Ratner led all scorers with 16 points and shot 3-for-8 from three-point territory. But tonight when he or any Laker guard had the ball, a Knight was no more than an arm's length away. Gannon defenders also quickly recovered from screens, allowing little room for the Lakers to shoot their jumpers. The Knights were susceptible to dribble penetration, but that's not the 'Hurst's forte. Great game plan, great execution, great victory.
A few other thoughts:
* How about California's continued ascent? They won at Slippery Rock tonight, 72-64, giving them a 6-7 record in the West after an 0-6 start. I believe if they win at 7-6 Mercyhurst Saturday, the Vulcans are in and the Lakers are out ... providing our 7-6 Knights beat last place Lock Haven Saturday. I'm not sure what the tiebreakers are among Gannon, Mercyhurst, and Cal. I'm guessing by end of business Thursday, Dan Teliski will have it all figured out.
* And how about crashing Kutztown? The Golden Bears are in danger of missing the PSAC playoffs after their 76-71 loss at Cheyney tonight. You have to love how they reported the game on the KU website: "Following its 76-71 loss to Cheyney University at Cope Hall Wednesday, the Kutztown men's basketball season has been to reduced to this unfathomable truth: beat Bloomsburg Saturday afternoon at Keystone Arena or else it will not qualify for the PSAC Eastern Division playoffs. Kutztown (20-6 overall, 7-6 PSAC East) remained a game ahead of Bloomsburg, who lost to Mansfield, 68-64. Bloomsburg (12-13, 6-7) owns the tiebreaker over Kutztown based on its 70-58 victory on Jan. 30." Holy crap would that be a shocker if they don't make the league playoffs. I would have bet money they would have hosted the freaking regionals with the talent they had back from last year.
* Alternate headlines for this post:
-- Ouch, that smarts (if GU would have blown the game)
-- Knights coast to easy double-digit win (sarcastic version)
-- If you shoot good, you look good (if Tom Chapman ran this blog)
-- Jeremiah Wise "A Bullfrog" (if Chris Berman ran this blog)hts!