Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Knights Thrive Under Pressure, Rock Crumbles

I'm not much of a music guy -- I'm embarrassed to say this might be my all-time favorite tune -- but one song that's been stuck in my head since my youth is "Pressure" by Billy Joel. It's applicable every basketball season this time of year. For both Slippery Rock and Gannon, we learned yesterday the answer to the question "How you going to deal with pressure?" as the Knights played their best game of the year and smothered the Rock, 75-63.

From the get-go, both teams exhibited extreme intensity in a playoff-like atmosphere. I love how Darrell Blanton went right at 6-foot-10 Luiz Santos and then preseason All-American Gerald Brooks, scoring 11 points in the first 8 minutes of the game. The Knights were blown out early when they played at Slippery Rock Jan. 30, but Blanton sent a message early on that this game Gannon was going to throw the first punch.

That attitude was evident on both ends of the floor. We've become accustomed to the Gannon defense flustering its opponents, and that happened in spades Wednesday. But the Gannon offense was aggressive, too, attacking quickly instead of walking the ball down the floor. Some games the Knights seemed content to throw 20 passes in hopes of finding the perfect shot, only to be disappointed by a turnover. Against Slippery Rock, the strategy was to reduce turnovers by running quick hitters instead of a motion offense, then taking the first available good shot. John Reilly regularly shouted "Attack!" when the Knights secured the defensive rebound.

Of course I'm happy Gannon won, but what has me thrilled is the way they won. In a pressure-packed playoff atmosphere, they responded with their best game of the season against an athletic, red-hot ballclub. After the Mercyhurst debacle, I was concerned Gannon was limping into the postseason. What I saw vs. Slippery Rock was a team nobody in the PSAC tourney or Atlantic Region would look forward to facing.

Knight Knotes:
* I think Adam Blazek's arm is healed. Instead of frequently pump-faking shots like he's been doing since his return, Blazek pumped in 25 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 13-of-15 free throws. He also grabbed 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of play. And holy cow does that kid have an engine on defense.

* My brother follows many of the PSAC schools on Twitter and he showed my a Tweet during the game from @Rock_Athletics, the Slippery Rock athletics Twitter feed, that basically threw in the towel. It's since been taken down but the Tweet said basically, "Gannon leads Rock 56-35 with 12:00 left in the game; Rock fans can get ready to host playoff game Sat." They might have removed that post because I retweeted a portion of their comment and said, "Way to support your team."

* Had Gannon lost Wednesday and been forced to play a first-round PSAC playoff game, this song would have been featured in the headline of this post. I'm quite dismayed that music video has been viewed 28 million times.

* I'll try my best to keep track here of how the top 10 teams in the Atlantic Region have fared since the rankings were released Feb. 27. The team's overall Division II record is listed first followed by their in-region record as of Feb. 25. I still think to secure an NCAA bid the Knights will have to win a second straight home game vs. Slippery Rock (PSAC Quarters) and their PSAC semifinal game on a neutral court. The results on this list (not the win-loss record) are updated as of 11:55 PM on March 1.

West Liberty

W vs. UPJ, W vs. Wheeling Jesuit, W vs. #5 Fairmont
Winston-Salem State

W vs. Va. Union, L vs. Bowie St.
East Stroudsburg

W vs. Bloom
Indiana (Pa.)

W vs. Lock Haven
Fairmont State

W vs. Seton Hill, W vs. Alderson-Broaddus, L vs. #1 West Liberty

W vs. St. Aug's, W vs. Elizabeth City St., L vs. Bowie St.

L vs. Chowan
West Chester

L vs. Cheyney
Slippery Rock

L vs. Gannon, W vs. California
Johnson C. Smith

L vs. Elizabeth City St.

Updated 3/1/13 5:15 PM: The WVIAC and CIAA semifinals are tonight -- #1 West Liberty vs. Wheeling Jesuit and #5 Fairmont State vs. Alderson-Broaddus at the Charleston (WV) Civic Center, #2 Winston-Salem vs. Bowie State and #6 Livingstone vs. Elizabeth City State at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. I think we need to root for the favorites to ensure an unranked team doesn't steal their automatic conference bid.

Updated 3/1/13 8:34 PM: #5 Fairmont's 75-74 OT win over Alderson-Broaddus is great news for the Knights. A-B was #7 in the Feb. 20 regional rankings, one spot ahead of Gannon, and had won 4 straight before falling in the WVIAC semis. A-B tied the score on a field goal with 7 seconds left and had a free throw to give them the lead, but could not complete the three-point play. They then fouled with 1 second left and Fairmont made 1-of-2 foul shots. Awful, awful way to end your season.

Updated 3/1/13 8:55 PM: I think Livingstone getting to the CIAA finals with an easy win vs. Elizabeth City St. seals an at-large bid for the Blue Bears.

Updated 3/1/13 11:21 PM: The WVIAC final will pit #1 West Liberty vs. #5 Fairmont State. WLU knocked off Wheeling Jesuit tonight, 92-73.

Updated 3/1/13 11:52 PM: Uh oh. Bowie State (15-13) has sneaked into the CIAA finals after drubbing Atlantic #2 and conference #1 seed Winston-Salem, 83-66. If #6 Livingstone can't beat the Bulldogs in the CIAA championship Saturday, John Reilly's alma mater might steal Gannon's spot in the NCAA field.

Updated 3/2/13 5:34 PM: West Liberty will host the regional tournament this year. The Hilltoppers are now 30-1 after holding off Fairmont State in the WVIAC finals, 92-78.

Updated 3/2/13 8:41 PM: We will have a GU/SRU redo on Tue. Slippery Rock dominated California in their PSAC quarterfinal matchup tonight. The Rock scored 45 points in the first half and cruised from there.

Updated 3/2/13 10:33 PM: Bowie State just burst someone's bubble, and it's probably someone from the PSAC. The Bulldogs, now just 16-13, ran the table at the CIAA tournament, upsetting Atlantic Region #6 Livingstone tonight, 85-74. My prediction is that 7 teams in the region have likely sewn up bids to the NCAAs -- the top 6 in the current rankings (WLU, WSSU, Stroud, IUP, Fairmont, Livingstone) and Bowie. That leaves just one spot open for West Chester, Gannon, Slippery Rock, or a lower-seeded PSAC team who could steal the league's automatic bid. So I think Gannon's only paths to the tournament are win the PSAC automatic bid (duh) or get to the PSAC finals vs. IUP. Any other scenario would equal season over.


  1. Isn't it funny that esu is ranked higher in regionals but lower than IUP nationally. As well as rock is now 9th regional but nowhere to be found nationally

  2. Only 2 of us played this week but I lost haha
    Roddy's Regional Rankings Ralooza
    Mmccoy 13pts
    Corey 23pts

  3. Not counting chickens, but........
    Another great performance by the Lady Knights. Four in double figures, including Brittany Batts going a perfect 6-6 from the field, including 5 threes; leaves her just 2 away from tying Jackije Windon's season-record of 89. And the point guard play was again superb (sensing a trend here): between Sundberg and Berchtold, 18 assists and 2 turnovers. Kelly Sundberg had 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 12 assists and ZERO turnovers. On to next Tuesday at the Audi and the PSAC tournament for BOTH GU squads.

  4. #3 Stroud and #4 IUP won tonight easily. Stroud beat Bloom 102-44. Way to show up, Huskies. You're certainly ready for the playoffs.

    #7 Shaw lost last night to Chowan, 59-58, in the CIAA first round. #8 West Chester fell tonight at Cheyney, 92-83, and you already know #9 Slippery Rock was trampled tonight by our Knights.

    Tomorrow #1 West Liberty hosts UPJ, #5 Fairmont hosts Seton Hill, and #10 Johnson C. Smith plays Elizabeth City State.

  5. Mercyhurst scored 2 more pts vs edinboro than we did vs Mercyhurst. Edinboro, however, scored 76.

  6. Before the game, I was dreading the possibility of having to watch Slippery Rock, coach Kevin Reynolds and his five stools celebrate their PSAC west championship on our court.

    Those concerns were allayed quickly in the first half. SRU made it a tiny bit interesting in the second half, but it never got to the point that we were too worried.

    Niiiiiiice win and great offensive performance coupled with our always tenacious defense. As I said before, our offense is quite efficient once we get shots up. Kept the TO's down and the score up!

    Weekend off and a postseason doubleheader! Should be fun.

  7. The teams that we need to lose are losing. But frankly these rankings are bogus. I dont understand how johnson c. smith is anywhere close to being in the top ten. Oh well, we should be back in the top 25(which doesnt even matter at this point) and should be top 8 in the next regional rankings. But about the game. Great performance by the PLAYERS. They made great plays, hustled and knocked down shots. Sloppy from the free throw line but we outrebounded SRU in the defensive rebounds. The only reason we were outrebounded on the o-boards was because we couldn't miss. Now for the criticism, our last made field goal was with 7:59 to go. That is when SRU brought out the fulll court pressure and things began to fall apart. I dont understand how there isnt a point guard on the floor when they have full court pressure. Jabs hasnt played to well in the limited time hes recieved, but Emmitt played great. Whether its jabs or emmitt , there has to be a point guard on the floor!!!!!! Even when there was a PG on the floor we still struggled. Something creative has to be drawn off to break the press instead of running around like chickens wiht thier heads cut off. If i was SRU i would bring full court pressure all game if we see them again. Also very bad officiating on both sides. Hopefully Reilly recognizes that almost all our 11 turnovers came in the last 8 min of the game when they pressed. Other than that, great performance and great game. Also hopefully this break allows Torrence to get healthy and come back for next tuesday. If he can play it would be a great boost.

  8. YES YES YES YES! That was a HUGE WIN. The best game that the team has played as a whole the entire season. They simply wanted that game more. It seemed as if SRU thought that they were just going to win the game for showing up. The guys get a few days off to get ready for a rematch more than likely against SRU. Gonna be a fun doubleheader Tuesday!

  9. There were still 13 GU points after the last field goal. The offensive strategy was to take time off the clock.

    Actually, GU only turned the ball over four times in the last eight minutes; they were on four straight possesions from 5:16 to 4:34. Thankfully, SRU scored only two points off those four turonvers or the last few minutes could have been pretty stressful.

    And congratulations to Shippensburg for finishing only 12 games under .500 in the PSAC and grabbing the coveted final playoff spot. They are only four wins away from an 11-19 record and a PSAC championship. And then six more wins away from winning the national championship with an 17-19 record.

  10. Not defending him, but Coach Reilly's philosophy is obvious to me. It is clear that when in doubt, Coach Reilly will always opt for defense over offense. Thus, Oldham played instead of Newby. Since both are dreadful free throw shooters, Reilly chose the bigger player and the better defensive player, particularly facing a team with an enormous front line that likes to put the ball up on the glass and go get it. Having Jabs in wouldn't have helped much on the glass.

    The problem with Gannon's pressbreak isn't who is in the game, but rather the design of how they try to break the press-too many passes into the corner, too much dribbling into the trap, not enough passes and ball reversals. Didn't matter if Newby was in the game or not. Also, I'm guessing Reilly didn't want Newby in because SR would certainly foul him if he had the ball.

    One more time-Torrance's curent absence from the court is NOT injury-related, I'm told.

    I agree that the GU women played great, but their opponents tonight certainly weren't exactly Notre Dame or Baylor-like. IMO, the women have been playing OK, but not as well as they were playing at year-end last year. They still miss a lot of easy shots (layups, short jumpers, etc.) and seem to have problems with quick opponents. They still have time to pick it up a bit, so let's hope they do so soon.

  11. SRU is home to Cal on Sat. You know its one and done time. Just wondering how SRU responds. You know they are already thinking of revenge at the mill. Will it affect their Sat game against Cal. They might be looking ahead of Cal to GU. Then again we beat Cal at home so you know they'd love to come here to quiet the mill next Tues.
    Either way we all need to be there Tues. I think the easier game would be Cal but SRU would be the sweeter victory.

  12. Good points on the pressbreaker issue, Observor.

    Oldham out front presents some unique probelems for opposing teams. Granted, we are in the early stages of this transition, but, absent the major kinks up at Mercyhurst so far, so good. Solid production at Lock Haven as well as last night.

    It appears that playing time at that position was spread out a bit more last evening, and, it worked out well. All-in all, going into last night, I considered Slippery Rock to be the best overall team in the PSAC, especially, from a talent standpoint. (Bringing ageless Gerald Brooks off the bench is a huge advantage.)

    I (we) don't quite agree with the above regional rankings, and, I suppose they will change a bit until when it counts, NCAA selection time.

    Looks like next Tuesdays game means......everything!!

    22-6!! Go Knights!!

  13. Can someone please notify Jeremy that we won 22 games, I know he wrote the season off on December 8th when Blazek went down. I'm also glad that Mccoy points out it was a great game by the players--im sure you think when Reills started coaching the rock got back into the game..give me a break. This staff has done a great job with this team through a lot of adversity this year, good job staff for having this team prepared last night and congrats on a great year so far.

    1. I bet you thought it was a great idea to put a 6-3 guy on a 6-9 guy. The staff has thier flaws. But, I guess this CJ at point works if they don't turn the ball over. As long as they don't have turnovers, I don't care who runs point. But I do care when we have four turnovers in a row because thier isn't a press breaker in the teams play book. The observer is right that a lot of the struggles are simply gettin the ball in the wrong places, but something has to be drawn up for Tuesday.

  14. Just happened to think about how unfortunate GU was to have the IUP game moved up to December. I said then that expanding the playoffs to 6 teams on each side is a travesty, and it's proven to be true on both sides. A .500 team and a team one game over made it in the West, and 2 far-below-.500 teams made it in the East. If that change had not been made, GU and IUP would be playing here on Saturday.

    Think about it-Blazek was out back on 12/8 and I believe that was GU's first or second game adjusting to his absence, IUP appeared to be playing better then as opposed to scuffling a bit now. GU seems to be a little more organized than they were back then, particularly at home, and they'd have Blazek in the lineup (even though he's been a little inconsistent, how do you think the SR game would've gone without Adam?).

    All things being equal, GU and IUP would both be 16-5 in the league and playing at Gannon Saturday with the Division (and hosting all through the PSAC playoffs) on the line. Too bad.

    I know this is all conjecture now, but that sure turned out to be a bad break for GU.

  15. I think we all saw Blazek play his best game in a Gannon uniform last night.

    I also think this is Gannon's best defensive team ever.

    In the "Conjecture Department": This team would have come in with a 24-4 regular season record without Blazek's hand injury.

    As it stands, if the team plays with the intensity of last evening, they can hang with anyone.

  16. Johnson C. Smith lost today 65-63 to Elizabeth state today in the CIAA tournament. 7,8,9,10 have all fallen.

  17. I'm reading up on the CIAA because the regional committee gave them so much love in the regional poll this week. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that prior to their upset of Shaw, Chowan was 0-16 in the conference. I would think that would make Shaw DOA for the NCAAs.

  18. Call me crazy here, I am watching West Liberty play for the 1st time. I almost think that Gannon could stand a chance against them for a while if GU makes the NCAA's at an 8 seed. GU plays a slow game offensively and relies on a tough defense to win games. I am not sure if West Liberty has gone against a team that plays slow on offense and plays tough defense.

  19. Exactly, Ewensel. I want the Hilltoppers in Round 1. No way they have seen a defense like ours. If we knock down outside shots and avoid turnovers like against SRU, we can beat them!

  20. Congratulations to Penn State for having a more pathetic half than our second half against Mercyhurst. Minnesota leads PSU at the half, 34-12.

    Play analysis: Penn State 30 possessions. Got shots or fouled on 25 of them:

    5 PSU field goals
    19 MN defensive rebounds
    2 ended in free throw attempts (2/3)
    5 turnovers.

    Of course, Penn State is truly pathetic. Gannon is not (except for the one half).

  21. Sorry for the triple-post, but just noticed something about the PSU game ... They did not SCORE until there was 8:42 left in the first half. They went through two TV time outs and a time out of their own. The score was 16-0 before they got on the board.

    That's more pathetic than Gannon ever was.

    Back to talking about good basketball.

  22. Mercyhurst blew a 7-point halftime lead and lost at Edinboro today, 65-60. Manchel Mania misses March.

  23. So far, so good for GU ... West Liberty holds serve in the wild, wacky, WVIAC today. No surprise conference tourney winner to gobble up the 8 seed.

    IUP will likely win,but Edinboro has a better chance of winning at IUP than did Mercyhurst. The Boro is a good road team, as we all saw firsthand.

  24. Cal scores first basket of game against Slippery Rock. Slippery Rock Athletic Department sends tweet wishing players and coaches best of luck during off-season.

  25. Livestating the Bowie State vs Livingstone game now. If Bowie State wins, I think it means that GU will have to WIN the PSAC's to get into the NCAA's.

    On the Women's side, they still don't play till Tuesday but some extremely good news on the regional front. Glenville State, who was #3 in the region lost on Wednesday night, which basically guarantees that the regional is going to be in Erie County, question is will it be at Gannon or Edinboro.

  26. Butler loses by........32 points????? the coaching staff???

  27. Rock outrebounded cal 50-21 but also had almost double the TOs than cal at 15-9.

  28. Bowie State up 11 with 3 minutes to go. Rut roh. Still think we have a decent shot if we make the conference finals, but it winning the PSAC tourney would make things a little more cetain. This does assure that just winning Tuesday is not enough.

    1. We are in BAD shape for the NCAA's. It's simple, make the PSAC finals, or the season is over. Here's the problem. Here are the conference tourney winners

      1. West Liberty
      2. Bowie State

      Two bids gone

      Realistically these five teams are pretty safe for an NCAA birth

      3.Winston-Salem State
      4.East Stroudsburg
      6.Fairmont State

      Leaves 1 spot left between West Chester, SRU and GU to battle for. The GU vs SRU game Tuesday is an elimination game basically. Loser is done. Time to root for a West Chester loss Tuesday. This hurts though.

  29. The new PSAC format proved to be a waste of time, energy, electricity, and gasoline. The #5 and #6 teams all lost today. Shippensburg ended its season with 20 losses (and only 7 wins) by losing at Millersville while Bloomsburg finished with 17 league losses (8-19 overall) by getting shellacked at now 10-17 Mansfield, 101-68. The game was delayed due to a shattered backboard during warmups. That was the basketball gods way of saying, "This game shalt not be played."

    1. The home team won all four women's games as well. All home teams won pretty comfortably, save IUP's six-point win over Mercyhurst that was close throughout.

      The lowlight was Millersville's 42-31 win over East Stroudsburg. ESU shot below the Mendoza line -- 18.6% (11/59) on the game and had 24 turnovers in their 20th and final loss of the season. They scored or got to the free throw line on 18 out of 80 possessions.

      All eight games were wastes of everything that Jim describes above.

  30. I challenge anyone to find a better hoops blog anywhere! Great "look-in" updates tonite.

    Hope my comment a week or so ago about the team with 20,21,or 22 wins that may stay home doesn't come to fruition. Tonite doesn't seem to help.

    As before, though, all we can do is take care of business Tuesday night FIRST. Then, let the chips fall where they may.

    I've always liked how this team/coaching staff can rise to the challenge. If it were to come to getting to the PSAC finals (at a minimum) for an NCAA bid, I like our chances. Having said that, I expect our game with the Rock to be an absolute slugfest.

    Watching 1AM replay of Bowie/Livingstone. (Maybe the result will be different!!!) Bowie looks very active and confident. Momentum is a funny thing......

  31. I have an interesting path for GU where they COULD still make the NCAA's, but not make the PSAC Finals. This would depend on how the regional rankings look however. If West Chester loses on Tuesday and GU wins, It would be GU vs East Str. and IUP vs Millersville in the final four, and we lost to ESU and IUP wins leaving ESU vs IUP for the PSAC Title. As I said, this depends on how the regional rankings look on Wednesday. Ideally GU just makes the PSAC Finals and they are insured of making the NCAA's

  32. Looks like West Liberty does EVERYTHING full speed:

    West Liberty A.D., son and two athletes arrested at hotel disturbance

    Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013 5:52 pm | Updated: 6:00 pm, Sun Mar 3, 2013.

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four people, including a college athletic director, were arrested Saturday night after a championship celebration led to police being called to Embassy Suites.

    West Liberty athletic director James William Watson, 66, was arrested along with his son, Brian Watson, 28, and two West Liberty athletes, Tyler Tucci and Gabrielle Davis.

    Earlier Saturday, West Liberty, the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II, won its fourth straight West Virginia Conference men’s basketball championship, beating Fairmont State, 92-78.

    Charleston Police Lt. C.E. Sisson told The Exponent Telegram Sunday that five or six officers responded to the hotel after security called for assistance.

    Sisson said the crowd was estimated at about 200 people, creating a disturbance in the hotel lobby.

    “Usually it only takes a few officers to show up, to back-up security, to get people to move along,” Sisson said.

    He said security was having trouble getting guests to return to their rooms and for those who weren’t hotel guests to leave.

    James Watson was charged with obstructing and battery of a police officer, Sisson said. Both are misdemeanors. Watson is alleged to have shoved a police officer. He was jailed until Sunday morning when he posted bond.

    His son, Brian, was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing on foot. He, too, was jailed until Sunday morning.

    Tucci, 22, and Davis, 21, were both charged with obstructing. According to the school’s website, Tucci is a football player and Davis is a volleyball player.

    Television station WTOV in Steubenville, Ohio, is reporting that West Liberty President Robin Capehart released a statement supporting Watson.

    “Jim Watson is a dignified, well-respected gentleman who has been nationally recognized as an athletics administrator during four decades of dedicated service. West Liberty University, and I personally, fully support Jim,” the television station reported the release as saying.

    “Based on the account of more than two dozen eyewitnesses to whom I’ve spoken, we look forward to the judicial process with regard to this matter,” Capehart said in the release.

    Watson has worked at the school for more than 40 years, earning a spot in its hall of fame. He formerly served as the school’s baseball coach and has been athletic director since 1989, according to the school’s website.

  33. One thing that the Bowie State CIAA win does guarantee is that we won't face West Liberty in the first round, if we make the NCAA's because they are the guaranteed 8-seed. Our most likely landing spot is now the 6 or 7 meaning that any Knight / Hilltopper matchup wouldn't happen until the Regional Final. Chances are slim at this point (and the slimmest is our reaching the regional final, if at all).