The best word I can use to describe Gannon's 67-65 home opening loss to Daemen is surreal. Even for the opening introductions it was weird to see 4 guys in Gannon uniforms that you've never watched play before. And the only returning starter from last year, Stephen Battle, sported a mowhawk that made him look like a different guy. When the game started, the allegedly high-octane Knights sputtered against Daemen's zone. Instead of penetrating gaps, exploiting the high post, and knocking down threes, Gannon seemed to be on its heels vs. a 3-3 NAIA club who recently lost at home to 2-11 York University of Canada. (York lost an exhibition to Mercyhurst, 88-52, on Oct. 13.) Even more shocking than the outcome was that Gannon led the game for only 25 seconds. They played uphill all night against a team that has rarely threatened them in the past. And UPJ vs. Daemen in the Gary Miller Classic championship while the Knights play the consolation opener? Surreal.
I'm usually glass-half-full kind of guy, but it's hard to be anything but resoundingly disappointed with what happened at the Hammermill. I was surprised Gannon wasn't more effective against the zone. I believe Dmitry Martynenko is a good mid-range shooter, so why not put him at the high post where he could score or, at 6-foot-9, look over the defense for the open man? That could have allowed Darrell Blanton -- whose two-hand dunk at the 15:48 mark of the second half nearly dislodged an Audi rafter -- to work in the low post where he's an absolute beast. I'm also surprised that Brandon Belt, who seems to be the club's best outside shooter, got only 15 minutes and 3 field goal attempts vs. a zone.
But strategies aside, Gannon's offensive intensity wouldn't have effectively executed any gameplan. Coach Reilly said it best that the Knights didn't play with a sense of desperation until about 8 minutes to go in the game when they rallied from 12 points down. The defense worked hard all night, but I was shocked how often Gannon was beaten off the dribble. Daemen would patiently work the ball side-to-side for 25 seconds, drive by their man, get help from Gannon defenders, and then kick out to a teammate for an open jumper. If you can't stay between your man and the basket, you're going to allow your opponent to shoot 57% in the second half like the Wildcats did.
Sigh. I shouldn't be this crabby after one game. I guess there is one good thing about the loss. A 5:30 game won't end past my daughter's bedtime.