Adam Blazek's college debut in his hometown was, um, less than he had dreamed about. Blazek missed his first 7 shots and committed a team-high 4 turnovers as the Knights shockingly lost to NAIA Daemen. You had to be concerned if that setback would crush the freshman's confidence in home game #2 vs. Roberts Wesleyan. Instead, Blazek torched the Raiders for 23 points -- 14 of them in the first 4 minutes of the game -- and led the Knights to an easy 86-61 win.
Blazek's stat line for the night was eye-popping: he averaged a point per minute (23), made 8-of-11 field goals (5-of-6 on threes), cashed in on both his free throws, and recorded 4 assists. What I liked even more were Blazek's comments in the Erie Times today. He gave credit for his success to senior PG Steve Piotrowicz, the man he supplanted in Gannon's starting lineup.
Other thoughts on the Gary Miller Classic:
* In the comments section of the blog post on the Daemen loss, Walter Ego wrote, and I quote, "Reilly must go. Now. This was Daemen. Daemen." Following that logic, I guess Pitt-Johnstown coach Bob Rukavina has to be fired as well because UPJ lost to Daemen in the Gary Miller championship, 72-65.
* Darrell Blanton deservingly represented Gannon on the all-tourney team after tallying 17 points and 9 boards in 31 minutes vs. Robert Wesleyan. Blanton was easily the most consistent and impressive Knight this weekend. Every time he gets the ball, I lean forward in my seat anticipating a great play by the junior leaper. He reminds me of a cross between former Knights Vince Mosley (2008-09) and Derrick Price (1990-92).
* My (and my wife's) favorite play of the RWC/GU contest came at the start of the second half. Raider Herbert Alexander threw away the inbounds pass to start the period, and Blanton immediately converted it into a three-point play. So Roberts coach Rob McCoy yanked Alexander from the game -- just 6 seconds in! -- and the coach and player engaged in a spirited conversation (i.e. argument) while Blanton cashed in his free throw. On the ensuing RWC possession, Raider William Kemp-Harris, who McCoy subbed into the game for Alexander, fired a wild pass out of bounds. The ball nailed McCoy in the midsection. While I bit my bottom lip, my wife turned to me and said, "Karma."
* Despite the back-to-back games and praising his team's depth during the early season, John Reilly really shortened his bench against Roberts. Three players logged 30 minutes or more (Blanton 37, Stephen Battle 31, and Oscar Macias 31) while Brandon Belt (9 minutes), T.J. Wilson (5), Shameel Carty (3), and Bubby Johnson (2) saw their minutes reduced. In the second half, Macias appeared to be dragging after playing full-court defense for most of the game.
* I was scratching my head both nights over referee Tony Meeks. He looked familiar and his name rang a bell, but I couldn't place him. Rick "Stats" Klapthor talked with Meeks and learned that he was part of the NC State teams in the mid 80s coached by Jim Valvano. Chris Corchianni was the star player for those Wolfpack squads.
* You might not want to relive the Daemen game, but here's a photo gallery from the evening. There's also a photo gallery from the Roberts Wesleyan romp. Major props to Joe Mattis for his photo work. And you thought he was just a great sports writer ...
* And here's a link to postgame interviews from Saturday night. I especially like Blazek being asked if he felt like he was "immortal" during his opening outburst. Of course the Prep alum answered "no."