Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Regionally Relevant

Gannon PG Jabs Newby
Photo courtesy Gannon University and Joe Mattis
The first official rankings for the Atlantic Region won't be released until much later this season, so we're left to our own devices to determine who's in the running for an NCAA bid. Good news for Gannon fans; the Knights have one of the best winning percentages in the region.

1. West Liberty (WVIAC) 10-0, 4-0 1.000
2. IUP (PSAC) 8-1, 3-1 .889
3. Livingstone (CIAA) 7-1, 0-0 .875
4. Gannon (PSAC) 9-2, 3-2 .818
5. Winston-Salem (CIAA) 8-2, 0-0 .800
6. East Stroudsburg (PSAC) 7-2, 4-1 .778
6. Lincoln (CIAA) 7-2, 0-0 .778
6. Charleston (WVIAC) 7-2, 3-2 .778
9. St. Augustine (CIAA) 7-3, 0-0 .700

Not far behind this pack is a half dozen 6-2 squads: Edinboro and Slippery Rock of the PSAC and Alderson-Broaddus, Shepherd, Pitt-Johnstown, and Concord of the WVIAC. Of course all this will be changed by the evening of Jan. 5 after all these teams will have played at least two more games. The Knights could creep closer to the top at 11-2 or crash back to earth at 9-4 (and just 3-4 in the PSAC).

To give some perspective how few losses a team can suffer and still make the NCAAs, look at last year's Atlantic Regional field. Wheeling Jesuit was the non-conference tournament winner with the most losses (21-9) followed closely by West Va. Wesleyan and Winston-Salem (each 21-8). Maybe the bogey is higher for PSAC schools, because IUP was 23-5 but was seeded #7.

Regardless, I'm just happy we can have this conversation and Gannon still be in the mix in the New Year. The Knights were 7-4 at this juncture in 2011-12 when they ended 14-12 and 8-3 in 2010-11 before sliding to a final record of 15-11. In 2009-10, when GU finished a woeful 13-15, the team was 5-6 through 11 games.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Joy To The World, The Knights Have Won!

Gannon's sweep of their two-game PSAC road swing, capped by Wednesday's 66-58 win at Shippensburg has really put me in the Christmas spirit. Click here for an audio link (you'll adore the accompanying photos, too), crank up the volume on your computer, and sing along.

It will be a Merry Christmas,
It will be a Merry Christmas,
It will be a Merry Christmas,
Gannon is 9 and 2!

Good defense we bring and pull out a win,
We will take the PSAC West and the NCAAs!

Now three cheers for Darrell Blanton
Now three cheers for Robert Wilson
Now three cheers for Adam Blazek
oh that's right he's hurt.

We like Emmitt -- his three-pointers
C.J. slashing team turnovers
Macias defensive rover
and a guy named Jabs.

We best make the PSAC playoffs
Or Knight fans will be all ticked off
We hate hearing Coach Manchel scoff
so beat Mercyhurst.

Happy Holidays to all Gannon Hoops fans. Thanks for making 2012 so entertaining, and here's looking forward to an even better 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Millers-villians

Some quick thoughts after Gannon stole a huge 69-52 win at Millersville Tuesday night (quick because the Knights turn around and play at Shippensburg Wednesday):

* Remember how in the Dragnet movie Tom Hanks would exclaim, "Thank God it's Friday!" I'm sure John Reilly was saying at halftime yesterday, "Thank God we have Oscar!" Macias was perfect in the first half -- 5-for-5 from the field including a trio of threes plus a pair of free throws -- and the Knights needed every one of his 15 points because they trailed the Marauders by one at the half, 27-26. If Macias hadn't been hot, the Knights would have been in a huge hole.

* Optimist's reaction to the win: Wow! We ended Millersville's seven-game win streak, and did it in their own building. This is a win you can really build on! Pessimist: Millersville wasn't that good, and even though the Knights are winning games, they're going on break and we'll lose all this momentum. And did you see the PSAC standings? We're still tied for last place in the West because everybody and their grandmother is 2-2, including Lock Haven. You tell me our program and all its resources is on the same level as Lock Haven? And while I'm asking questions, why do so many people have all those stupid lights on their houses this time of year?

* Many Gannon fans, myself included, have seen Jabs Newby's incredible athleticism on tape and were wondering when he was going to maximize his athletic abilities on offense. Maybe we don't have to wonder anymore. Newby erupted in the second half for 14 points in 18 second half minutes at the 'Ville after a scoreless first period. Newby attempted 10 field goals (making 5), by far a season high.

* In case you haven't seen the Gannon/Millersville box score, former Knight Brandon Belt led Millersville in scoring with 11 points. He was 4-of-8 from the field with a pair of three pointers in 28 minutes. The Marauders other starting guards, Larry Grant and Anthony Coleman, were harassed in to a combined 4-for-23 shooting performance.

* I felt confident at halftime even though Gannon trailed 27-26. Darrell Blanton was just 1-for-8 from the field and I figured that couldn't repeat itself over the final 20 minutes. Blanton finished 4-of-14 from the field for 13 points. (Note: I tried coming up with a Jammermill-like nickname for Millersville's Pucillo Gymnasium but couldn't.)

* Speaking of 13, Robert Wilson grabbed that many rebounds Tuesday night. Plus he was 3-of-4 from the field, a perfect 3-for-3 at the foul line, and handed out a team-high four assists. Gannon's 40-30 advantage in rebounds was key to Gannon's win; Millersville had been dominating their opponents on the boards heading into the game.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Knights Win Tourney In "Uncomfortable" Fashion ... Again

I know I wrote just a few weeks ago that Gannon won the Gary Miller Classic because their defense made Daemen uncomfortable in a 65-46 victory. The Knights took it a step further in the Porreco Cup title game. Virginia State was downright distressed as GU suffocated them 67-42. As Golden 89 mentions in the comments below, the 42 points ties a 45-year old Porreco Cup/Gem City Bowl record for fewest points allowed. In the first half, Gannon allowed just 13 points; the Trojans didn't score their first field goal until 4:30 into the game and didn't hit double figures until 18:34 in.

Those stats are impressive, but they still don't do justice to just how flustered Gannon made Virginia State. Let me add some details that I observed sitting behind the Trojan bench:
1. During pre-game and early game timeouts, head coach Darryl Jacobs controlled the entire conversation. Halfway through the first period, two coaches and a reserve player desperately pleaded with the five on the floor to make something happen on offense.
2. On back-to-back possessions late in the first half, State rushed down the floor hoping to catch the Knights off guard before setting their defense. Instead, an alley-oop pass was thrown so high even a Bud Light Daredevil couldn't snag it and the ball sailed way out of bounds. The next pass, down the left sideline, skipped into the concession stand.
3. Even when a State player dunked to make the score 34-13, only 4 players on the Trojan bench could muster the energy to applaud.

The defense was as good as ever, but the most improved aspect of the Knights' game was their offense. Cup MVP Darrell Blanton was Superman Friday vs. Notre Dame (Oh.) with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and several resounding dunks, but his passing out of double-teams really opened up things Saturday. Blanton had only 12 points but a team-high 4 assists, leading to an 18-point outing for Oscar Macias and a 14-point night for all-tourney member Robert Wilson.

Speaking of Wilson, when the Knights are back in town after the new year, watch him hold his position on the defensive boards -- especially if you're a youth basketball coach. Wilson's form is textbook, and it's matched by his desire to secure the rebound. The junior transfer from Urbana didn't shoot lights out for the tournament (8-for-22), but he deserved to be on the all-tourney team for his box outs alone.

Speaking of the all-tourney team, I came across a comment on the Gannon Athletics Facebook page related to that topic. Here's what some guy named David Sheridan wrote: "I don't know who the idiots are that voted for the all-tourney team, but voting two players on from the 3rd place team was just plain stupid. Oscar had a great game tonight and deserved to be on the all-tourney team. Give me a call, and I'll be happy to vote and clue the rest in about how it should be done."

I agree with David that Macias was outstanding Saturday and deserved all-tourney consideration. But to call the all-tourney selection crew "idiots" and using the word "stupid" is completely uncalled for. But since David brought it up, let's do a blind statistical comparison between Macias and all-tournament selections Noah Cottrill and Kelsey Williams of third place West Virginia Wesleyan:

vs. Notre Dame (Oh.)
PLAYER A: 34 min, 26 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 1 TO, 11-of-15 FG, 1-of-1 3FG, 3-of-4 FT
PLAYER B: 31 min, 8 pts, 3 reb, 0 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 5 TO, 1-of-4 FG, 0-of-3 3FG, 6-of-6 FT
PLAYER C: 32 min, 31 pts, 9 reb, 3 ast, 0 stl, 0 blk, 2 TO, 10-of-14 FG, 8-of-10 3FG, 3-of-3 FT

vs. Virginia State
PLAYER A: 37 min, 20 pts, 10 reb, 1 ast, 0 stl, 3 blk, 5 TO, 8-of-13 FG, 4-for-7 FT
PLAYER B: 39 min, 18 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk, 1 TO, 5-of-10 FG, 4-of-8 3FG, 4-of-4 FT
PLAYER C: 40 min, 16 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk, 5 TO, 5-of-13 FG, 5-of-11 3FG, 1-of-2 FT

So, without applying any bias, which two would you put on the Porreco Cup all-tournament team? If you chose the guy with 46 points and two double-doubles (Player A - Williams) and the guy with 47 points and Porreco Cup record tying 13 three-pointers (Player C- Cottrill), then David Sheridan thinks you're a stupid idiot!

Macias was outstanding -- he's playing his best ball ever in a Gannon uniform -- but you can't deny the Wesleyan duo deserved trophies for their tremendous performances. If you disagree, then I think you're ... entitled to your opinion.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Furn-tastic!

I had the honor of working as the radio play-by-play man for Gannon's 81-66 win over Notre Dame (Oh.) in the opening round of the 2012 Porreco Cup. I pride myself on being prepared -- some would say overprepared -- for each broadcast. For example, did you know that that Notre Dame reserve forward Kalomo Figueroa-Jackson attended Africentric Early College in Columbus, and their team nickname is the Nubians, a people of Sudan? And did you know the best-known Nubian is the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat?

I had all that info in my game notes, but here's the only data I had on Gannon senior forward Tanner Furno: "Ankle surgery -- out until January." Furno proceeded to thrill the Knight faithful not just because he suited up, but because he looked smooth scoring 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 chart from the free throw line. Radio color man Jim LeCorchick and I suspected that since the Porreco Cup was moved up to mid-December, Furno coordinated his rehab with the GU schedule and arrived early as well.

As great as Furno and soon-to-be Porreco all-tourney team member Darrell Blanton (26 points, 12 rebounds, several Jammermill moments) were, there were some low points for Gannon. Coming off finals week, the Knights trailed 36-34 at halftime. During the break, which is the only time the play-by-play guy gets to think during the game, I started contemplating the fallout if GU lost to the sub-.500 Falcons. The 594 fans in attendance might have thrown their popcorn and dentures on the court (unless they were already celebrating Prep's state championship victory).

Instead, the Knights erupted for 47 second-half points while stifling Notre Dame for the first 12 minutes of the second stanza. If Gannon can stay healthy, keep Blanton out of foul trouble, cut down on their turnovers (20 vs. NDC), and make some threes (just 1-for-12 Friday), expect the Knights to raise some hardware tonight.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bump In The Road or Here We Go Again?

I'm not quite sure how to feel after Gannon's 72-65 loss to IUP Saturday afternoon. Option A: Feel good that the Knights competed with the #22 team in the country despite not having injured Adam Blazek, arguably their best all-around player. Option B: Feel like a two-game home losing streak is the beginning of another right-around-.500 season.

The season certainly isn't lost, even though the Knights sit at 1-2 in the PSAC West, tied for last place with doormats Lock Haven and Clarion. The remaining four games on the 2012 Gannon schedule are all winnable even with Blazek sidelined: Notre Dame of Ohio (2-5), Virginia State (2-3) or West Virginia Wesleyan (4-2), at Millersville (3-0, 7-2 but with losses to teams Gannon has beaten), and at Shippensburg (0-3, 2-5). So GU could be 9-2 heading into the long Christmas break. 

Who wouldn't want an .818 winning percentage after 11 games? Maybe the answer to that question is longtime Gannon fans. The vibe I'm getting from the folks who still attend games (more on that next paragraph) is that they are starving for a 20-win season, not a fourth consecutive campaign with double-digit losses. The Knights are just 46-40 over the last three-plus seasons, winning just 10 of their last 19 games at the Hammermill. Gannon fans are used to two home losses in a season, not in the span of one week.

I think longtime fans are also down more than they should be because the atmosphere at the games has declined as well. Only about 1,000 fans attend each game, and they sit scattered throughout the Audi. It's a myth that every regular season Gannon game was sold out during the Chapman years, but more often than not you had to tuck your winter coat under your legs because most of the bleacher seats around you were taken. I used to feel sorry for the Metro League players and fans who played in a gym with the bleachers 75% empty. Now I'm feeling sorry for myself.

Let's hope the Knights can sweep the rest of 2012 and beat some quality teams in January. That's my wish not just because I want the team to do well. I'd also like the Knights to bring the Hammermill back to life.

Other thoughts after the IUP/Gannon game:
* What could give Gannon fans hope for a better tomorrow is that Robert Wilson -- who torched the Knights during his days at Urbana -- hasn't hit his offensive stride yet.Wilson is just 4-for-17 on threes this year and looked visibly frustrated/disgusted/angry Saturday afternoon. The Knights will need Wilson more than ever with Blazek on the sidelines for an expected 4-6 weeks.

* You have to tip your fedora to Indiana coach Joe Lombardi who has turned the Crimson Hawks into a perennial national contender. Organization is a big part of that. For the game, he had a team manager sit directly behind him with a dry erase board. Each full time out, the manager's job was to move the coach's chair to the center of the huddle and hand him the dry erase board. A second manager tended to the needs of the players, who sat in order on the IUP bench.

* IUP's Blake Vedder was listed at 7-foot-3 in the program and that was no exaggeration. He stood head, shoulders, and armpits above everyone else on the court. Vedder's appearance brought up the name of another 7-foot-3 Gannon opponent, St. Michael's Michel Bonebo. Bonebo and guard George Daway make the Purple Knights a force in the MECC in the mid-1980s. They still rank as two of my favorite Golden Knight opponents.

* Members of Oscar Macias' family attended the Gannon/East Stroudsburg game and unfortunately saw him go scoreless against the Warriors. Imagine his phone call home to them after his 17-point outing (15 in the first half) against IUP. They'd either beam with pride or call him a fibber. It was fun to see Macais play with so much confidence and energy against the Crimson Hawks.

* On a couple possessions vs. IUP, Gannon didn't play man defense. I don't think I've seen John Reilly do that in several seasons. One possession appeared to be a standard 1-2-2 while another possession appeared to be an "upside-down" 1-3-1 with Darrell Blanton at the top and diminutive Brandon Emmitt under the basket. The Knights also ran a couple new offensive sets, showing that Reilly is willing to tweak his standard game plan. I know the anti-Reilly faction who follows this site will say, "Yeah, but they still lost," but you have to understand that losing doesn't mean you did everything wrong and winning doesn't mean you did everything right.

* Despite Gannon's loss to IUP, longtime GU supporter Chuck Campagne had a great week. Not only was he named a Gannon Athletics Hall of Famer, he won Saturday's Gannon Booster Club 50/50. I saw Chuck bring his winning ticket over the to scorer's table and tell the booster who tried award him the prize, "Keep it." Well played, Mr. Campagne.

* I'm not hopeful for a large crowd at Friday's Porreco Cup opener vs. Notre Dame (Oh.) because the game will go head-to-head with Prep in the AAA state championship game. What could draw people to the game is that I'll be doing the game on the radio, so regular Gannon hoops listeners may head to the Hammermill just to avoid listening to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

News Flash: You Can't Win If You Don't Score

It doesn't take a John Wooden or a Dean Smith to figure out that a sputtering Gannon offense cost the Knights today against East Stroudsburg, 52-46. I'm not going to overreact and crush the team or the coaching staff, and I'm not going to press the panic button even though PSAC West favorite (and defensive dynamo) IUP is Gannon's next opponent. The Knights simply need to get better offensively. I don't know what the answer is -- I haven't seen the team for one minute in practice -- but here's what I'm guessing the coaching staff has to choose from:

1. Add some wrinkles to the new offense. A half dozen games into the season, the Knights have averaged only 67 ppg primarily because their half court game takes time off the clock and produces too many turnovers (just under 20 a game). Think about it: if the guy dribbling across midcourt quickly puts up a shot, your chance of a turnover is basically non-existent, but your shooting percentage will be pathetic. The Knights, who are hitting 48.5% of their field goal attempts, need to find a happy medium between quick shots and too many passes. All five players on the floor need to look to make a play at times instead of just looking for another player on the perimeter to pass to. The coaching staff could help by adding in a few quick hitters while the new motion offense gets up to speed. I think I still have Tom Chapman's playbook somewhere in my basement ...

2. Gain offensive confidence. In the four games I've seen this year, Adam Blazek, Darrell Blanton, and Alvin Tucker look like the only three Knights who are confident they'll make a positive play when they have the ball. The other players frequently look side-to-side or seem to be just "running the offense" instead of executing the offense while looking for or creating cracks in the defense. An example is Gannon's point guards. Jabs Newby is strong and quick and I think could wreak havoc one-on-one. But from what I've seen he hasn't penetrated quite as often as he could, and when he has he's looking pass first. I'm not saying he has to be All-American Javar Cheatham and finish in the paint, but Newby could channel his inner Camara Mintz to muscle inside and get to the foul line more often (only 14 times in 155 minutes of action). Backup PG Brandon Emmitt has a great-looking perimeter shot, but it seems like he uses it only as a last resort. He's attempted only 8 three-pointers this year (making 4), an average of 1.5 per game. Last year at Erie Community College, Emmitt averaged about 5 three attempts a game. I'm not saying Emmitt should engage in Operation Chuck It and shoot at will, but I'd rather see him shoot an open 20-footer early in the shot clock than some of the attempts Gannon was forced to take today.

3. Develop the bench. Today was a glaring example of the bench not putting enough points on the board. In 51 combined minutes, GU's subs tallied only 7 points (Tucker 4, Emmitt 3). Against Kutztown they contributed only 9. This lack of production is partially a byproduct of little playing time for the reserves, but they could still contribute more when they're on the floor.

The upside to this problem is that it's early. There's tons of time to start running the new offense better, to gain confidence that you can play on this level, and for individuals to improve their skills. Lots of teams are dreadful on offense this time of year -- just ask Georgetown and Tennessee, who played an ug-ug-ug-ugly 37-36 game last week. Fans need to be patient with this team. And this team, who is brilliant defensively, now needs to make strides on offense.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Now That Kutztown Is Out Of The Way ...

I'm glad Gannon wasn't looking past Kutztown today, because I was. The Golden Knights pounced on the now 1-5 Golden Bears at the outset and never looked back on their way to a 67-56 victory at the Hammermill. This sets up the first real test of the season: 4-1 East Stroudsburg, the 2012 PSAC playoff champs and NCAA qualifier plus this year's PSAC East favorite, at undefeated Gannon (5-0). Stroud handled host Mercyhurst today, 67-62.

Should the Knights win, they will take control of the PSAC West because -- make sure you're sitting down -- league favorite IUP fell today at Cheyney, 64-60. The Wolves were picked dead last in the eight-team PSAC East, but are now tied for first at 1-0.

I'm too distracted about Sunday's showdown to assemble a cohesive article on today's win, so I'll just offer some random thoughts and observations:

* Gannon won today's game in the first five minutes, racing out an 11-point lead (the final margin) by causing 7 Kutztown turnovers. Oscar Macias, Adam Blazek, and Robert Wilson all hit threes during the game-opening spree.

* If the Knights had lost today's game, the headline to this article could have been "(Free) Throwing It All Away." Gannon ended the game 12-for-24 at the charity stripe, but only because of a late-game free throw hot streak by Darrell Blanton. The two teams combined for a dismal 3-for-11 chart in the first half, GU 2-for-7 and KU 1-for-4.

* Wow -- I still can't believe IUP lost to stinking Cheyney. That leaves only two perfect teams in the PSAC, and both of them are from Erie County. Edinboro moved to 4-0 today with a 66-65 win at Mansfield. Scot Bryan Theriot hit a hook shot with 10 seconds on the clock for the EUP victory.

* Kutztown wasn't bad, but they had no answer for Blanton. The senior carried Gannon with 27 points and 8 rebounds on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. And I thought the Gannon guards still could have done a better job of feeding Blanton in the post.

* In back-to-back games like this weekend, many coaches choose to stretch their bench in the opening contest. Not John Reilly. Four Knights logged 30 minutes or more (Blanton 33, Blazek 32, Wilson 31, and Macias 30) while former starter Roger Livramento and fellow big man Algeron Torrence each played just four minutes.

* I've heard and seen a lot when I sit behind the opponent's bench, but I experienced two firsts today. During an early timeout, Kutztown point guard Micah Fraction asked me for a towel. He must have known how good I was at that when I suited up for the Knights. At the start of the second half, longtime Golden Bear coach Bernie Driscoll turned around while taking off his sportcoat, made eye contact with me, and offered me a stick of gum. I said no; he was in a much more stressful situation than I was. I'll bring my own gum Sunday, Gannon's biggest game of the early season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November Knight Knotes

* Gannon has officially announced the early signing of West Middlesex senior Matthew Dogan, which Gannon Hoops talked about Nov. 20. In the same press release, the Knights said they have signed New Castle senior guard Brandon Domenick (pictured here). Plus the New Castle News reported the signing, so it's really official. I have to admit, I was scratching my head a little bit on the Domenick signing because he's not physically imposing (5-foot-9, 160) and his scoring stats aren't eye-popping (9.1 ppg for his career). It wasn't until I saw this online scouting report on Domenick that I understood why John Reilly signed him early. "Outstanding defensive skills," the report says. "Has faced several D1 prospects and shut them down on offense and defense. Described as a 'pest' on defense. Fearless, does not back down, gets into opponents head. Always on opponent’s hip. Quick to read and exploit weaknesses." And I'm assuming Reilly also likes this quality: "Extreme work ethic. Plays entire game usually running full-court presses." Excellent -- I'll take all the tenacious defenders/hard workers you've got!

* The press release I mention above also included some statistical tidbits on this year's Knights. Gannon SID Dan Teliski writes, "Gannon is 4-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 NCAA Division II Elite Eight squad rolled off nine consecutive wins to begin the season. The Golden Knights won the 29th annual Gary Miller Classic championship last weekend with victories against NCAA Division II provisional members Roberts Wesleyan (66-45) and Daemen (65-46). The defensive effort resulted in consecutive opponents being held under 50 points for the first time since January of 1992, when Jim Roddy was a senior benchwarmer for the Knights." OK -- Dan didn't exactly write it that way, though it's true.

* PSAC teams continue their choppy play before conference games tip-off this weekend. Cal lost at home to NAIA Wilberforce (Oh.), 90-88. You have to love how the stats team crushes Vulcan Quentin Harding the box score, going out of their way to mention, "Harding (CAL) missing first of three free-throws with 0.2 seconds remaining." The next time Harding shoots free throws at home, we should look to see if folks at the scorer's table are coughing and making choking gestures. Give the kid a break!

* Only three PSAC teams will enter December undefeated. Can you name them? Answer below.

* Clarion finally grabbed a win after losses to two Division III squads (Thiel and LaRoche). The Golden Eagles knocked off DIII Houghton, 77-67, at Waldo Tippin Gymnasium. The win isn't all that impressive, though. Roberts Wesleyan drilled Houghton, 60-44, on Nov. 20.

* The spotless PSAC squads are all in the West: Gannon (4-0), Indiana (4-0), and Edinboro (3-0). The Knights host Kutztown (who just lost at home to Holy Family, 91-75) and Stroud this weekend while the Crimson Hawks and Fighting Scots are on the road. IUP travels to Cheyney and West Chester while EUP goes to Mansfield and Bloomsburg. Click here for complete PSAC standings, schedules, results, and statistics.

* As I finished typing this entry, my wife called me to the kitchen table to watch this video on her iPad. Do you think she's trying to tell me something?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Knights Win In "Uncomfortable" Fashion

Bob Dukiet had a lot to say about defense, but there was one foundational principle he preached the most: "Make them uncomfortable." In their 65-46 drubbing of Daemen in the Gary Miller Classic championship Saturday night, the Knights made the Wildcats uncomfortable from the outset. The defending Miller Classic champs, Daemen entered this year's tourney averaging nearly 90 points per game. At the half, a clearly frazzled Wildcat team had scored only 15 points, committed 9 turnovers, and made just 7-of-24 field goal attempts including an 0-for-7 chart on three-pointers.

Heck, even halftime was arduous for Daemen. I walked by their lockerroom on my way to the men's room on the west end of the Hammermill Center, and the team was still congregated in the hallway. Coach Don Silveri, who spent the first minutes of halftime at the scorer's table pleading his case to the officials, loudly asked, "Who has the key to the lockerroom?"

Daemen doubled its scoring output in the second half, but finished the game making only 33% of its field goal attempts and 3-of-16 threes while turning the ball over 21 times. The anguish on their faces was evident. Dribblers couldn't get to the basket and outside shooters had everything contested. Forwards in the paint were swarmed by two, three, or four ballhawking defenders. The Knights were too big, too fast, too quick, too strong, too smart, too aggressive. And Daemen was too uncomfortable to compete.

If the folks at the scorer's table would have selected "Team Defense" as the tourney MVP, I wouldn't have had a problem with that. I'm also OK that Adam Blazek earned MVP honors even though he needed 13 field goal attempts and made just 1-of-7 threes to score 13 points. His 5 steals -- the team-high on a 14-steal evening -- helped keep Daemen out of whack all evening.

Other thoughts on the evening:
* For you pessimists who are still down on the Knights because of their sputtering offense, remember where we were a year ago after the Daemen game. I used the phrase "resoundingly disappointed" and I still stand by it. Now at 4-0 after a dominant victory over a team that was 8-2 coming in should make all Gannon fans feel good about this season's prospects.

* I love Gannon, but can I still feel bad for Daemen guard Casey Sheehan? A year ago, he lifted his team to the Miller Classic title and hoisted the tourney MVP trophy with a 24-points-in-just-23-minutes effort in the finals. Tonight he was scoreless in 18 minutes, leaving at the 14-minute mark with an injury to his left leg.

* Saturday might have been Oscar Mascias' best game in the Gannon uniform. Not only did he score 9 points on a 3-of-4 shooting chart, he was rarely beaten off the dribble by the quick Daemen guards. Mascias was a surprise starter this evening for big man Roger Livramento, who played just 7 minutes.

* I love how John Reilly gets everyone -- even guys who have been with his program for just a few months -- to sacrifice their bodies. Every Knight, even the new players, willingly take charges and get floor burns. One player (I can't recall who) hustled after a loose ball in the second half and landed in the lap of former Gannon great Mel Witherspoon. So, double kudos to Reilly for getting Spoon to finally take a charge!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gannon Performs Blunderfully In Roberts Win

Even if I could, I wouldn't watch a second time Gannon's 66-45 home opener victory over Roberts Wesleyan in the first round of the Gary Miller Classic Friday. The Knights committed a whopping 29 turnovers against just 14 assists. GU was a dreadful 1-for-6 (16.7%) on three-pointers but that was actually a better percentage than Roberts, who was 2-for-16 (12.5%). Gannon's opening night jitters actually lasted all night, the team never finding an offensive rhythm. I won't take time to check this on the play-by-play, but I'd be surprised if the Knights scored on consecutive possessions. It sure didn't feel that way. The coaching staff was even off its game a bit. Darrell Blanton committed his fourth foul at the 9:40 mark, but play started before the Knights could substitute for him. At least six possessions took place -- Blanton swiping at a ballhandler and attempting a blocked shot on two of them -- before Gannon's leading scorer got to the bench.

So the game was filled with blunders but it was wonderful at the same time. After nine months away from the Audi, it was great to see again: Adam Blazek dribbling while sliding on the floor, a la the Harlem Globetrotters; Blanton dunking after a series of quick passes, which caused Roberts to abandon its half-court trap; T.J. Wilson attempting to front a guy four inches taller, then hurling himself into the front row to save a loose ball; and coach John Reilly flailing his arms during timeouts, imploring his squad to get a stop and a rebound.

I'm not panicking over this performance because it was just one early-season sloppy November basketball game. I like all the new players. Roger Livramento (10 points, 6 rebounds in just 15 minutes total and just 4 minutes in the second half) is long, battles hard, moves well, and has a nice shooting stroke. Robert Wilson (8 points, 6 rebounds) didn't post big numbers, but you can see that he's strong, aggressive, and possesses a wealth of offensive gifts. Brandon Emmitt is a nice backup point. He's quick, can handle, and shoots jumpers like you'd teach at a basketball camp. Starting PG Jabs Newby is quick, strong, and quite the ballhawk on defense.

All that said, these talented players wearing maroon and gold need to perform better Saturday, or Daemen (an 82-66 winner over Virginia Union) will head back to Buffalo with their second straight Gary Miller Classic championship trophy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Knight Knotes

While counting down the minutes to Gannon's home opener Friday ...

* Gannon hasn't made an official announcement, but according to the Erie Times West Middlesex junior Matthew Dogan (pictured here) has committed to play for the Golden Knights next year. The Times says, "Dogan is a 6-foot 6-inch guard who can play inside and out but his strength is handling the ball and creating offense." According to the Pittsburgh Basketball Report, he's one of the top 10 guards in the Pittsburgh area. If anyone's seen him play, please comment below.

* Lots have folks have been talking in the previous post here on Gannon Hoops about player transfers. In response, I received this email from a GU fan who wishes to remain anonymous: "I find it strange that you have so many comments concerning transfers, but today Gannon announces a high school signing and there have been no comments whatsoever. Also, how long does John need to be part of the program before people know how to spell his name?" It's R-E-I-L-L-Y. I'm predicting a future comment will say "Jon Reilly" and make us all scream.

* Here's some other good Gannon news you might want to talk about. Several Knights participated in National Young Readers Week by volunteering to read at local schools. This press release from Gannon has all the details. Next year they can print this blog and read it to the kiddies. Wouldn't that be fun!

* Roberts Wesleyan will enter the Gary Miller Classic with a 1-1 mark after handling the hapless Houghton Highlanders tonight, 60-44. The Knights will need to stop Devin Grimes who will arrive at the Hammermill averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds a game for Roberts. (Editor's Note: I reserve the right to call Houghton "hapless" based on their 69-64 home loss to Penn State-Greater Allegheny on Nov. 16.)

* Jim LeCorchick gave me the heads up that former IUP All-American Gerald Brooks has resurfaced at Slippery Rock after three years away from the game. Click on this page from the Indiana Gazette for details. (Parental discretion is advised.)

* LeCorchick also pointed me towards the current IUP team photo. Click on that link and see if any player stands out to you -- literally. Wearing #33 but listed as #11 is Blake Vedder, a 7-foot-3, 235-pound transfer from Division I Rhode Island. He's one of five DI transfers on the Crimson Hawk roster, and I'm sure he has the most difficulty when they travel. Here's some video of Vedder if you can't wait until Dec. 8 when Gannon and IUP square off.

* Happy Thanksgiving! Before the leftovers are gone, we'll have two home games under our belt. If we can still fit into our belt.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mystery Men

So the Knights are off to a promising 2-0 start after Saturday's 91-65 drubbing of host Ohio Valley at the PSAC-WVIAC challenge. I'd like to say it was an "impressive" win, but can I make that claim if I've never seen the team play? It seems strange to have the Knights begin the season so early and far away from Erie. It also seems strange to say, "I can't wait to see them play ... in a couple more weeks."

One conclusion we can draw from examining Saturday's stat sheet is that Gannon can be balanced offensively. Four players hit for double figures, including first-year Knights Robert Wilson (20 points plus 9 rebounds) and Jabs Newby (12 points on 6-for-9 shooting). And, not to forget about the returning players, if there was a tournament MVP award for the weekend, you'd have to give it to Darrell Blanton. Or you could set the trophy on top of the bankboard and he could jump up to snatch it. Blanton totalled 40 points and 18 rebounds while hitting 68% of his shots (17-for-25) in the two Gannon wins. He played defense, too, recording 4 blocks and 4 steals.

Other thoughts on the weekend:
* If you rearrange the letters in "PSAC WVIAC," you get "wasp via CC." I knew you were wondering.

* A Gannon fan who attended the games emailed me to say, "Ohio Valley was everything we expected it to be. Facility makes Behrend's Erie Hall look like a palace. About half their uniform numbers were different from the program." That led the the erroneous conclusion by some stat-sheet observers that OVU's Ashton Brown, who scored 43 Friday against Millersville, was held scoreless by GU. That's what the stats say, but the reality is that Brown scored 17 on 3-for-10 shooting. For some reason his statistics are credited to Robert Smelser on the box score. Smelser-Mania will have a to wait a little longer.

* Gannon will be a heavy favorite when they visit Millersville Dec. 18. MU lost to Ohio Valley 93-92 Friday while the Knights shellacked the Fighting Scots by 26 the next day. Also, the Marauders lost by 10 to Glenville State Saturday, the day after Gannon beat Glenville by 3. What also makes me feel confident that Gannon will be a favorite over Millersville is that statistician Nate Silver is picking the Knights while Karl Rove and Dick Morris are both guaranteeing the 'Ville to win by double digits.

* I really feel bad for Brandon Belt, who transferred to Millersville after one season at Gannon. His new team goes 0-2 while his old club finishes 2-0 in the same gym versus the same opponents. Belt scored 21 points in his two games, but was only 8-for-27 from the field including 1-for-13 on three-pointers.

* I'm the only one keeping track of this stat, but I wanted to share it with you. Newcomers Wilson, Newby, and Algeron Torrence have already passed me on Gannon's all-time scoring list. Torrence (16 points) did in 17 minutes what I struggled to accomplish in four long years. Sigh.

* Looking ahead to the Gary Miller Classic, defending champ Daemen is already 6-1 after annihilating several Canadian teams. The Wildcats play two more games between now and their first-round contest vs. Virginia Union. VUU is 0-1 after a 71-69 loss to King College. Roberts Wesleyan, Gannon's first round opponent, is both undefeated and winless. The Redhawks have two games before tipping off at the Hammermill.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Year, Old Habits

The last couple seasons, it seems like every Gannon game comes down to the final possession. For one stretch, 10 of 13 games were decided on the final possession or in overtime. (The fans at the Hammermill aren't actually all octogenarians; they just look that way from the stress.) Why should this year be any different? The Knights held off Glenville State, 70-67, in tonight's season opener, avoiding OT when a Pioneer three-pointer that banked in was ruled too late. We're just one game in and I already need to take nitroglycerin. Better refill my prescription, or I'll be out by the Gary Miller Classic.

The stat sheet bore some similarities to past games as well:
* Gannon outrebounded Glenville, 40-23, a staple of John Reilly teams
* I hope it was opening night jitters, but the Knights committed 25 turnovers. Nine of them came in the first 10 minutes of the game when Gannon fell behind 24-11.
* After a slow start, Darrell Blanton turned the Ohio Valley gymnasium into the Jammermill, soaring for 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting while also securing 7 rebounds.
* Adam Blazek led Gannon's first half comeback. He finished the contest with 11 points and a game-high 9 rebounds before fouling out.

As far as new players, the starting lineup included Jabs Newby (4 points, 5 assists), Robert Wilson (10 points, 7 rebounds), and Rogerio Livramento (6 points). Algeron Torrence led bench players with 9 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the line. No minutes for returning big men Tanner Furno (injured) or Dmitry Martynenko.

I'm not sure what the slogan will be on this year's team poster, but I'd like to suggest this: Gannon Basketball -- Never Boring!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Looking Forward

I was going to hold off until next week to preview Gannon's opening set of games against Glenville State (Friday, Nov. 9) and Ohio Valley (Saturday, Nov. 10), but I couldn't wait because I'm already excited to learn about these teams. By the end of this post, we actually might know more about the opponents than Gannon, who added 7 players this off-season. By the end of next weekend, we'll have a really good gauge if the new Knights have a chance to be better than last year's 14-12 edition.

Let me look way ahead first -- 17 months in the the future. Gannon will host the 2014 Women's Division II Elite 8 at Erie Insurance Arena (aka Erie Civic Center or Tullio Arena). When I received the press release in my email inbox yesterday, I first thought the City of Erie was giving the Gannon women's team an award for their NCAA run last year. But then I read it more carefully and was pleasantly surprised to read "Gannon and City of Erie Awarded 2014 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight." We all remember when GU hosted the Atlantic Region in 2010 before a full house at the Hammermill. Can you imagine an NCAA championship game with 6,000 screaming fans on hand? However it turns out, that will be a fun week.

Now back to the present day. If the Knights don't come home next weekend with a pair of wins, several Gannon Hoops fans will hit the panic button. Out of 15 teams in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), Glenville was 12th in the preseason poll while OVU was dead last. Glenville was 7-20 overall last year and 6-16 in the WVIAC. Ohio Valley (8-18, 8-14) is actually predicted to finish behind Bluefield State, a woeful 1-26, 0-22 last season.That's like asking a girl to the prom and her replying, "I'd actually prefer to go with that kid standing in the corner, eating his own boogers." It's like offering a recruit a full scholarship and he says, "No thanks. I think Lock Haven is a better situation."

Friday vs. Glenville State Pioneers
We can say with certainty that Gannon won't be the biggest game of the week for the Pioneers. On Tuesday, Glenville travels to West Virginia University to face coach Bobby Huggins, big man Deniz Kilicli, and the Mountaineers, who have made 5 consecutive NCAA tournaments. Glenville returns three starters from a season ago: junior G Kevin Gray (16.6 ppg, 79 threes), sophomore G Andy Dollman (8.9 ppg, 32 threes), and soph. G Jamel Morris (14.7 ppg, 68 threes).

Glenville might already lead all of Division II in turnovers. An incredible 12 new players, 8 of them freshmen, have been added to the Pioneer roster this year. Junior newcomers include 6-foot-7 F Lamar Mallory, who was first-team all-conference at Miami (Oh.) Middletown community college, Lamont Cole, a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged 12 ppg at Edison Community College, and J.J. Vasquez. The only info I could find on Vasquez is that he's 6-foot-5 and from Boston. I also found this J.J. Vasquez online, but I don't think he's the right guy.

Saturday at Ohio Valley Fighting Scots
I'm not sure about the quality of the OVU roster, but the quantity is overwhelming. I had to count twice to make sure I was right -- 21 players in all, only 2 of them seniors. OVU lost its top 6 scorers who generated 92% of the team's offense a season ago. The current roster accounts for only 2 of the team's 181 three-pointers from last season.

The most productive returnee is 6-foot-7 Lithuanian soph. F Osvaldas Gaizauskas (4.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), who only played 12 games last season and is sure to cause Gannon radio man Sean Amicucci fits. Evan Jamison (2.8, 1.5), a 6-foot-6, 230-pound sophomore, averaged 10 minutes a game in 24 contests as a freshman. A 6-foot-7 senior from Canada, Mustafa Helal (2.6, 1.3) played in 24 games last year for the Scots.

Expected to lead the backcourt will be 5-foot-9 senior Ashton Brown, who left Division II Texas A&M Kingsville last season despite being the leading scorer (14.3 ppg) for the 12-16 Javelinas. Brown hit 38% of his threes (43-for-113) and an amazing 96% of his free throws (124-for-129), which led all DII players last season. I couldn't find why Brown, a native of Randolph, NY, left Texas after one successful season, so I'm left scratching my head. Also helping will be G Chris Baker, 5-foot-10 transfer from DII Missouri Southern State. Baker, who did not play at MSSU last season, averaged 1.6 ppg in 7 games for the Lions in 2010-11, who finished 26-3. (Side note: Brown's bio and Baker's bio on the OVU site have room for improvement.)

Go Knights!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rankings Rollout

When I was a kid, my favorite time in the fall wasn't football season or the World Series. The best moment was shopping at Loblaws and spotting the new Street & Smith's College Basketball Preview on the magazine rack. I'd immediately flip to the back of the book to look for the Division II rankings to see if my beloved Golden Knights were listed. Man was it cool to see Gannon mentioned in a national magazine! And if the Knights made the top 10, they might get a one-paragraph writeup as well. The paragraph included information I already knew (and some misinformation I could have corrected), but I'd read it a hundred times anyway. It was so cool to see "Mitchell Smith" in black and white.

Now I understand that national DII rankings are worthless, and pre-season rankings are a step below that if possible, so the romance is gone from my favorite autumn moment. Furthermore, the rankings are announced online and seeing "Gannon" on the internet is no big deal.


But I still get a kick out of the first poll of the year. It means the Maroon/Gold game then season opener can't be far away. Here's the Division II Bulletin pre-season rankings, courtesy of Gannon SID Dan Teliski. You'll notice only one PSAC team (#24 Stroud) and only one other school from the Atlantic Region (#1 West Liberty). Coming off a 14-12 campaign, Gannon of course didn't make the Top 25. But the little boy in me is thinking, "Well, they must be #26 then."

1. West Liberty
2. Franklin Pierce
3. Findlay
4. Washburn
5. Metropolitan State
6. Alabama-Huntsville
7. Colorado School of Mines
8. Western Washington
9. Bellarmine
10. Seattle Pacific
11. Winona State
12. Stonehill
13. Christian Brothers
14. Bloomfield
15. Florida Southern
16. Montevallo
17. Southern Indiana
18. Chico State
19. Northwest Missouri State
20. Indianapolis
21. Barton
22. Midwestern State
23. Saint Leo
24. East Stroudsburg
25. Lincoln Memorial

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Knight: Cory Bailey fr. 5-11 165

No offense to the rest of the Gannon team, but Cory Bailey may be my favorite Golden Knight. For starters, he's local (North East High School), he's a walk-on, and he's close to my size (5-foot-11, 165 pounds). In addition, a friend of mine who has watched the North East program for years told me he's an excellent student and person. The role of a college walk-on is similar to a D-League player when they make it to the NBA. Be a great locker-room guy, always show up early, work your butt of in practice, never complain, never be selfish, and get good grades. (And you get extra credit for waving a towel during games.) Bailey looks perfectly suited to fill that role. And -- who knows? -- he could in time become one of those non-scholarship guys who develops into a key contributor.

Here's some more information on Bailey:
* Click on this link for his official Gannon bio.
* Was named North East's most outstanding player after averaging 10.4 ppg as a senior, second best on the Grape Pickers.
* North East was the Region V and District 10 runners-up in 2012. The Grape Pickers won both titles Bailey's junior campaign.
* The Grape Pickers were eliminated in the first round of the 2012 PIAA playoffs by Summit Academy, 44-43. In that game Bailey scored 13 points and hit 4-of-4 free throws, earning himself Erie Times Breakout Player of the Week honors.
* His free throw in the closing seconds helped North East hold off Lakeview in this year's D-10 Class AA semifinals, 41-40. Bailey totaled 8 points for the game.
* When Gannon plays at Edinboro this year, I hope Coach Reilly draws up this play for Bailey. I implore you to click on that link -- the highlight is amazing and turned out to be the difference for the game.
* Stayed very busy at North East: he was a member of the honor roll, earned a perfect attendance award, and played football for the Region IV champion Grape Pickers. Was named first-team all-region at defensive back and second team all-region at quarterback.
* If you're a fan of both stiff-arms and muddy high school football (me, too), here's a great photo of Bailey in action when the Grape Pickers annihilated Fort LeBoeuf.
* Here's a photo of Bailey shooting a jumper at Gannon wearing maroon and gold. No, I don't have time machine; the Grape Pickers played Greensburg Central Catholic in a playoff game at the Hammermill Center this past March.

If you're keeping score at home, I managed to say "Grape Pickers" 7 times in this post. Greatest school nickname ever.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Knights Team Photo























This photo of the 2012-13 Knights was just released on the Gannon Athletics Facebook page and team roster page. Front row (L-R): Cory Bailey, Jabs Newby, Oscar Macias, Brandon Emmitt, Adam Blazek, and Alvin Tucker. Back row (L-R): Darrell Blanton, Robert Wilson, Rogerio Livramento, Tanner Furno, Dmitry Martynenko, C.J. Oldham, Algeron Torrence, and T.J. Wilson.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Knight: C.J. Oldham jr. 6-8 205

Last month I received this email from a longtime Gannon fan: "I think the other Div 1 transfer is from Akron C J Oldham 6'5".  I believe he will have 2 years left and as a sophomore was voted captain of the team. Have to wait to see if it is official." Then, shortly after that, Gannon announced that Brandon Emmitt, a native of Akron, had signed with the Knights, so I figured the Oldham transfer was a rumor that would never come to fruition. But when the Gannon roster was revealed earlier this week, Oldham was on it. Looking at his Akron bio, it seems like he's a good kid -- mechanical engineering major who was voted the Zips' team captain last year despite only being a sophomore and not scoring a single point as a redshirt freshman.

One of the advantages of gaining DI transfers is that their sports information department is likely to be close to on par with Dan Teliski, Gannon's excellent SID. That means the player's online bio provides quite a bit of info. Here's some of what Akron had to say about Oldham:


* Last season played 9 games, scoring a total of 11 points in 30 minutes of play for 22-12 Akron.
* Made 5-of-9 field goals, including 1-of-2 three pointers. His trey came during a 21-point loss at West Virginia. (Editor's Note: Part of me hopes he pointed in Bobby Huggins' face as he ran back on defense.)
* Recorded two points and two assists* against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, followed by a two-point, two-rebound performance against Florida A&M. (*Another Editor's Note: The Akron website says "dimes" instead of assists, but nobody who knows basketball actually uses the word "dimes.")
* The Zips, seeded #1 in the MAC tournament, would have played in the NCAAs had they not lost a heartbreaker to Ohio in the conference finals, 64-63. (Ohio went on to beat Michigan and South Florida before falling to North Carolina in the Sweet 16.)
* Oldham played 8 games his freshman year but did not score.
* Redshirted the 2009-10 season.
* Played scholastically at Solon (Oh.) High School where he received accolades including all-Northeast Ohio, Greater Cleveland All-Star and Greater Cleveland All-Academic Team.
Averaged 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists as a senior.
* Spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school in Germany where his father Calvin Oldham was a professional basketball coach. His dad currently coaches in South Korea.
* Speaks German and lived in Germany for 13 years.

Here's some other info I dug up on Oldham:
* Was named to the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Honors Court this past season because of his 3.250 grade point average as a mechanical engineering major.
* According to this message board, Oldham was a walk-on at Akron. I'm not sure of his scholarship status with Gannon.
* This message board thread about Oldham transferring from Gannon doesn't provide much value beyond entertainment. I did laugh out loud at this comment from Zips Junkie: "Losing a team captain has to be a devastating loss for the program. I just hope it doesn't have a ripple effect on the women's swim team."
* Another fan noted on a different thread, "Walk-on CJ Oldham appears to be transferring out. It's been noted that CJ could be a starter on some D-I teams that lack UA's depth. Don't know where CJ is headed. Could be the source of Zach's rumor about a basketball player transferring to Lake Erie College. CJ could be a real force in a D-II program like Lake Erie's, should he end up there."
* Oldham hasn't played much in college, but he has his own DraftExpress NBA Draft Prospect web page.
* According to this Cleveland.com article, Oldham's Solon Comets finished his senior year with a 7-14 record and were eliminated in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
* Scored 17 points in this Solon loss to Twinsburg.
* This article featuring the obvious headline "Comets frustrated by losses" mentions that Oldham scored 12 points in a loss to Strongsville. The article does not mention that Strongsville is the alma mater of former Golden Knight Bobby Bossman.
* This website rated Oldham as a two-star power forward back in 2009.