Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sputtering Start

Well, that wasn't the way Gannon wanted to kick off PSAC West play -- an anemic offensive performance in a 65-45 loss at Indiana (Pa.). I only saw the second half of the game because that's when the IUP web TV broadcast started working. Coincidentally, that's when the wheels came off Gannon's offensive machine. The Knights trailed just 34-30 at the half, but scored a measly 15 points in the second half (thank goodness Kelvin Agee hit two threes in the final minutes). Gannon shot just 23% over the final 20 minutes (6-for-26). And you thought it was cold outside.

Gannon runs a motion offense that seems to have worked just fine this against average-or-worse teams, but against the good ones like IUP, the offense seems very predictable and ineffective. Tonight the ball rarely entered the post and the ball movement and screens produced very few good opportunities for Gannon. Almost everything came off dribble penetration with the shot clock winding down. The result was oftentimes an off-balance, contested midrange jumper or a layup attempt among a crowd.

Gannon fans can't feel too bad giving up 65 points to a team that finished second in Division II basketball last year and returns almost every key player. But I'm guessing Gannon Hoops followers will get a pit in their stomach after seeing these numbers:
L vs. IUP -- 45 points, 31% FG, 4-of-15 on 3-pointers, only 15 points in the second half
L vs. Cheyney -- 36% FG, 0-of-4 on 3-pointers, only 26 points in the first half (while allowing 45)
W vs. Wayne State -- 61 points, 42% FG, 4-for-14 on 3-pointers, only 25 points in the first half
L vs. Urbana -- 24 points in the first half, 36% FG in the first half, 5-for-17 3-pointers
L vs. Central State -- 30 points in the first half on 38% FG, 7-for-24 3-pointers for the game

I'm concerned that quality opponents have figured out Gannon's offensive pattern, and the result is low percentage shots for extended periods of time. I'm hopeful the coaches will adjust and make some changes that throw the defense off balance and get the Knights more open looks during the second half of the season. I'd like to occasionally see some designed double screens for Agee and Brown, isolation plays (like 4 players on the baseline) for Agee and Clagett, high-low post play, back doors, and quick hitters like that. I'm not saying ditch the motion offense. But I think the Knights need more variety when they have the ball. Or they'll be handed more stinging losses like the one they suffered tonight.


  1. Anybody else having trouble viewing the game through the IUP website? I saw part of the women's game but I'm getting nothing for the men ... despite restarting my computer, closing every other window, and adjusting the rabbit ears on my TV after adding some tin foil to them.

  2. It's working now for the second half ... but Gannon isn't working as well, now down by 9.

  3. doesn't help to start the second half on the wrong side of a 13-2 run.

  4. started the second half 0-9 with 4 turnovers in the first 5 minutes.

  5. Yhe Webcast gave me trouble also. I've viewed
    them before and had no problems. maybe the weather.
    Both GU teams had snow in their eyes tonight.

  6. It started to go to hell near the end of the 1st game...and it wouldn't work for the 2nd game. And ouch for both games tonight...18 point and 20 point losses. The 2nd half for the man's game just looking at the live stats looked bad.

  7. James I am disappointed, you should know it isn' the offense it's the players. Quick hitters and the rest are bandaids to a bigger problem

  8. Well, BMOC, what are you really trying to say? Is it the players' fault because they aren't good enough for your standards OR is it the Coach's fault because he didn't bring in better players? Either way, what can be done RIGHT NOW to improve, as you put it, "the players"? I'm sure that grumbling about it sure isn't going to help.

    Anyone that knows a little bit about basketball knows that you have to diversify your offense to enable your players to adjust to different defenses and give them more options to get better shots. Jim is right-GU's offense IS too repetitive and predictable to be effective with this group. If you have a dominant inside player like Goldcamp, it works a lot better. But, since that isn't happening again soon, you have to use a set or at least some plays that better utilize the strengths of your players. Ball screens to create pick and rolls and double screens for shooters would work better than trying to force the ball inside to players shooting 4-18 as GU's bigs did tonight. This is the type of offensive strategy you normally see a lot in college coaching, but Reilly's style is to emphasize defense and tolerate offense.

    I continue to be amazed at some of the GU "fans" who seem to think that there are hundreds of very tall, supremely talented basketball players who are just dying to spend their winters in lovely Erie, PA. Sorry, folks, but Glen Summors isn't walking through that door, nor is someone like Kyle Goldcamp, for that matter. Let's try living in the present for a change.

    This is the team that GU has this year. There are no trades that can be made or free agents to be brought in (remember how well that worked last year?). This is not a veteran-laden team like IUP's. Right now, it looks like they'll be depending heavily on a couple freshmen to be their main offensive threats. That means there will be growing pains, particularly on the road. For example, from what I saw in the second half, they appeared intimidated by IUP's more experienced players, leading to numerous missed shots and turnovers when the pressure got turned up. Sorry, but this isn't 2009.

    We can choose to encourage and support this team and see what they can do (maybe they'll surprise us as the season goes on), or we can continue to whine, moan, and criticize them when they lose. I will continue to do the former and encourage others to do so as well. If that's too hard for you, why not just go to a movie instead or drive up to Mercyhurst?

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  10. Good post Jim; its all about diversify, diversify, diversify. Financial advisors warn you not to put all the financial eggs in one basket in case that basket falls.
    The motion offense relies on a the defense having a mental lapse or getting switched up. Good teams like IUP won't do that often. I've played for coaches that use primarily motion and not only does it stop working after a while, it gets very boring.

  11. Criticize?

    Like James and yourself who disparage the coaches philosphy?

    Had it not been for 07 and 08 there would not have been an 09...

    Is making excuses encouraging, or is it simply facilitating or enabling.

    I am sorry I can not put a dress on a pig and call it beautiful.

    We have a young team (again) that will go through growing pains, if you stay true to a philosophy it will build into something special.

    I remember when people said the same thing to Duke in 88-89, especially after the boro game, but we stayed true, weathered Nov/Dec without a Goldcamp/Summers type - and made the trip to Springfield.

  12. I knew you were still dwelling on 2007-09. Now it appears you're also still dwelling on 1988-89 (also a much more experienced team, by the way, in what was a very different era in college basketball over 20 years ago). Sorry, but you can't judge this team by comparing it to those teams.

    Disparaging the coach's philosophy would've been a lot harsher and would've included both ends of the court. This was suggesting some diversification on offense, that's all. If it's obvious that what you're doing has been deciphered by the better defenses (as Jim suggested), you have to at least consider diversifying it.

    No one, certainly not me, is calling this team beautiful. I think they are playing the way you'd expect them to based on how long they've been playing games together (half a season), their experience level (2 freshmen, a senior in his first season here, and a point guard with minimal experience starting), and what players are leading the team offensively (the 2 freshmen). You can't realistically expect a team like this to go on the road against the defending national runnerup returning most of their players in their first conference game and expect them to win at this point. That's a reason, not an excuse. No one is making excuses.

    We can agree that staying true to a philosophy is important, but so is supporting the players that are here now. Nothing can be done to change that.

    You hold that criticizing the coach's philosophy is wrong. But the composition of the team is not the responsibility of the players, so just who are YOU criticizing?

  13. BMOC- How does critiquing equal disparaging? It simply doesnt. I think that everyone is universally pleased to see the team's progress while recognizing room for improvement by both coaches and players. So BMOC, exactly who ARE you criticizing?

  14. the coaches recruiting and ability to maintain top tier players...this seems to be the biggest problem with the Gannon program. Because of this, we now have another "rebuilding" season where we need to be "patient" with the kids. Of course this group can't be expected to go on the road and CONSISTENTLY beat experienced teams from the PSAC (like IUP). And I think we all think that this team CAN be good, in a year or two...

    I also think we have been spoiled as Gannon fans, by Jerry Slocum's consistency (and Dukiet before him...sorry that's as far as I go back). Reilly has had 2 really good seasons and a lot of middling (Mercyhurst quality) teams...hahahaha (sorry couldn't resist the shot). I think this is frustrating to a lot of us.

    So, I've been a season ticket holder for a while and do not plan on giving up my tickets (unlike the guy next to me who isn't at games this year???). But, i expect a 16 win team, with an early exit from the PSAC playoffs and hopefully these kids will actually stay at Gannon.

  15. Oh yes, and one last thing, if Coach Reilly is dead set on running a motion offense with an aggresive man-to-man defense (no gimmicky zones, thank god!), then it is his responsibility to recruit kids to fit into this system...

  16. I see statements like you can not get any big men. I cannot understand those comments when you look at Jerry Slocum's we always had some one like Goeff Husted, Zaid Al-Khas, or Josh Morgan. Kyle Goldcamp is mentioned and remember John did not recruit him but was asked if he wanted him. ( John's words) John does well with guards and wings but seems to lack big men contacts. Looking at the top ten teams this week and they average 5.5 players 6'6" or taller on thier rosters we have two. You cannot have a diversified offense with this mix and it also makes for defensive mismatches.

  17. I think what Bob said makes sense. I would disagree only in that I think you could get away with 6'5" (or smaller)post players if they have a series of effective moves (Motown-style) that enable them to score in the paint. Several people have told me that GU has just such a player redshirting in the kid from Cleveland (the name is escaping me now). If this is true, let's hope he sticks around.

    Outside of Truskauskas, I'm not aware of any taller post players that Coach Reilly has recruited, although I wasn't familiar with ALL his Brescia teams, just mostly the ones that played here. Whether he is unable to recruit such players, or perhaps he doesn't feel such players fit what he wants to do defensively, I don't know.

    The one thing I find interesting is that these discussions about the games only happen after GU loses. If I didn't know better, I'd think that there are GU "fans" out there that are happier when GU loses in hopes that the school is motivated by lack of success to change coaches (I talked to many such people back in early 2007, I know that).

    Or am I just imagining it?

  18. Gannon74, frustration and expectation. That's why there are more posts after losses. While I do think there may be an anti-Reilly faction out there, I know for myself I would love nothing more than Gannon to succeed (and therefore Reilly to succeed).

    I think the board is made up of a small number of very loyal gu fans who feel each loss and celebrate each win.

  19. BMOC: "Disparage" means to belittle, and I certainly didn't intend to belittle the coaching staff. I think John Reilly is an excellent coach, and disparaging him would be an insult. I was just offering my 2 cents worth. It would be like saying Gannon should mix in a 1-2-2 zone defense occasionally (like Bob Dukiet did) to keep teams off balance. I don't think that's belittling anybody. If I talked with Riles about his offensive plan -- he hasn't consulted me yet, but I'm waiting by the phone if he does -- he might tell me that when the guys set effective screens the offense works fine, so instead of installing new sets they're working in practice on screening better That would be OK by me. He's forgotten more about basketball than I've ever known. If what I said came across as belittling, I apologize.

    Also, you said, "Quick hitters and the rest are bandaids to a bigger problem." Tom Chapman used a lot of quick hitters, even during Gannon's national championship game run. What problem was he covering up? None. He preferred to run secondary break (looking for a quick scoring opportunity) into a set play for a quick shot. He felt fewer passes equaled fewer turnovers. Reilly believes that more passes lead to defensive breakdowns and easier shots. Neither coach is right or wrong, and neither philosophy is a bandaid to a problem. It's just different strategies.

    As far as the roster, I like it a lot. I'd rather a starting 5 of Javar Cheatham, Steve Moyer, Troy Nesmith, Kyle Goldcamp, and Josh Morgan, but that's a pipe dream. The Knights have guys with athleticism, skills, passion, high basketball IQs, and unselfishness. They haven't played consistent basketball yet but they've been excellent (and entertaining) in spurts.

    The lack of height is also a strategy thing. Coach Reilly's defensive scheme requires all 5 guys to guard the ball away from the basket. You don't find many 6-foot-9 guys on the Division II level who can do that. Chapman recruited guys like 7-footer Akol Tong and 6-foot-10 James "Big Daddy" Henderson. Those guys saw little playing time under Dukiet because they weren't strong guarding on the perimeter.

    Finally ... thanks for your comments. It's fun to see so much interest in the GU program. Keep the momentum going!

  20. Whap....

    excellent as always... I should not have thrown you under the bus...

    The point I was trying to make that if my comments were disparaging, so too could other comments have been.

    As toothe bandaid statement I don't know of many coaches at any level that truly blend hitters and motion. For a coach of one style to adopt aspects of another - you are taking time away from improve what you fundamentally believe.

    After watching the system employed by so many coaches, from Carril, to Dukiet, Herb Sendek, Byron Scott, JT III - and on. The system is only as effective as the players - it is complicated, with more options than a new car.
    Every day these guys are learning something new and refining something already installed.

    If it's not working, the players may not have enough installed, they may not have confidence in it, they may not know each other yet, any number of possibilities exist all outside the players influence (but some are within), or maybe they simply do not believe in it, at which point coach will have lost them (I AM NOT SAYING HE HAS), I saw it happen to Dukiet when assistant coaches began to run he and the system down... the lack of confidence in the system (by players and assistant coaches) lead to a lack of respect and to his ultimate downfall.

  21. I'm quite sure that what Reilly uses is a version of the Princeton motion offense. I have seen other coaches utilize this offense, but others seem to employ a lot more variations in it, including a lot more back door cuts and screens than Reilly does. BMOC mentions Sendek, Scott, and Thompson III, and they are among those that I have seen using a lot more of the available "options" that seem to exist in this offense than Reilly does.

    I'd be a fan of adding some of those options to GU's play list.