This has been a mostly disappointing season for Gannon, and several fans plus commenters on this site have taken Knight coach John Reilly to task, sometimes brutally. I hope those folks can admit that Reilly deserves 5 stars for leading Gannon to tonight's 79-71 win at previously PSAC-perfect Mercyhurst. The Lakers entered the game #3 in the region and #17 in the country, but they never led in the second half -- never really threatened, actually. If the Hurst hadn't banked in a pair of threes, this game might have been a rout.
Of course the players deserve credit for hitting 57% of their shots, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range. But Reilly should be showered with praise for orchestrating this victory. Gannon's man defense frequently bumped leading scorer Heiden Ratner away from the ball and rattled him into a 6-for-20 shooting night and just 14 points, 6 below his average. On offense, the Knights worked the ball into the post and swung the ball when the offense slowed down. Plus, when perimeter players had an opening, they frequently slashed to the basket which played a big role in Gannon earning 26 free throw attempts. And down the stretch, the Knights were prepared for Mercyhurst's press and executed their breaker flawlessly. After they broke the press, they ran clock and limited the Lakers' possessions down the stretch.
I think Hurst coach Gary Manchel helped Gannon's cause by repeatedly double-teaming the low post which led to several open GU shots. If Gannon had a dominant low-post player I could understand the strategy, but why send two guys after Clinton Springer-Williams -- who averages less than 2 shots per game -- and leave Kelvin Agee (15 ppg, 39 threes) open on the opposite wing? Travis Brannen (32 giant points) was 4-for-4 on threes because he was so wide open at the top of the key for each attempt because his man was pinching in the post. I wrote in a previous post how Gannon struggles to break down the defense, but they didn't have that problem tonight because Mercyhurst kept breaking itself down by flooding to the ball. I thought Manchel would adjust his defense after Gannon's 13-0 run to end the first half, but he kept doubling down ... and lost that bet in a big way.
In other PSAC news: IUP ralled past Edinboro, 73-72, sinking the Scots to 4-7 in the conference. IUP took the lead on a shot with 16 seconds left before Scot Danny Walsh missed the potential game winner. Where was that last week? ... Cal tripped visiting Slippery Rock, 69-68. That's not good for the Knights (4-7) as the Vulcans (5-6) stay a game ahead. How big is Saturday's Gannon/Cal game? ... As expected, gravity continues to hold us on the earth and Lock Haven lost again, this time to Clarion (5-6), 95-80. The Knights are still alive in their hunt for the postseason. And, man, does it feels good to be alive tonight!