Gannon outlasted a talented Northern Michigan team tonight, 79-68, to win the Gary Miller Classic. Entering the weekend I had a million questions including basics such as, "Which guy in the layup line is Kelvin Agee?" With two impressive wins (and a combined 163 points in 80 minutes of play), we had many of our questions answered. But I still have a few:
Did you honestly think with so many high-scoring guards now on the roster that Danard Crouch (17 points tonight) would lead the Knights in scoring? Crouch, who at times last year played like the Tazmanian Devil hepped up on a 5-hour energy drink, was completely under control when he had the basketball tonight. With the Knights up by just 3 with under 10 minutes to play, Crouch doubled the lead with a nothing-but-net trey. Northern never got any closer the rest of the night.
Do you recall a year ago on Day 2 of the Miller Classic when Crouch went to the line with GU up 2 with less than a minute to play vs. Northern Kentucky? Crouch tossed a rock that nearly bent the rim. Tonight, he made 5-of-6 foul shots, hit 5 of his 9 field goal attempts, and dished out 4 assists.
Do you recall the final score of that GU/NKU classic a year ago? It was a mind-numbing 40-38. The two teams tonight combined for more points by halftime (44-35 Gannon).
How good was NMU big man Jared Benson tonight? He poured in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Tanner Furno was so ineffective again Benson that John Reilly kept his super sophomore on the bench for the stretch run.
Will Reilly rotate 10 players this season like he did tonight? Unlikely if you heard his post-game radio interview with Jim LeCorchick. Reilly said he likes everyone who played, but he needs to establish a more consistent rotation. You know how it goes -- if you split time among 8 guys, the few who stay on the bench are unhappy. If you split time among 10, then nobody's happy.
Could Reilly rotate 10 players if he wanted to? Yes. This team doesn't have a superstar on it (though Agee looks spectacular in bursts) and is as deep as I've seen a Gannon team in many years. Even if a Knight or two gets injured, there are capable reserves to pick up the slack.
Can this team win on the road? We'll find out Saturday at Urbana. The 1-6 Blue Knights have had an equally depressing and interesting season. On Dec. 2 they will make their home debut against Mercyhurst. Their early season road games have taken them to North Carolina (vs. Pfeiffer and Catawba), Kentucky (for the Ky. Wesleyan tournament), Cleveland State, and Kent State. Their only win is against the Univ. of Indianapolis.
Indy must stink, right? Not so fast. On Nov. 8, Indianapolis won at nationally-ranked Division I Tennessee, 79-64. Twelve days later they lose at home to Urbana by 11 points. Meanwhile, Tennessee is beating #7 Villanova by 10 to win the preseason NIT. No wonder coaches go insane.