I'd like to share with you some of the notes I wrote while sitting at the scorer's table today watching Gannon's 77-66 defeat of Lock Haven at the Hammermill Center: "Outworked? GU didn't match defensive intensity of prior games. More ball pressure." I wasn't sure if I'd mention any of that in my post-game comments for a couple reasons. First, saying guys didn't play hard is about the harshest criticism you can give to an athlete, and I didn't want to go there if I wasn't 100% sure effort was lacking. Second, Gannon held a double-digit lead for most of the game, including a 20-point advantage with 7 minutes left. Was I being too critical of a now 17-4 club that clinched a posteason berth today?
I felt vindicated when I heard coach John Reilly's comments during his post-game radio interview with Jim LeCorchick.
"I'm very disappointed," Reilly said. "We won, but I don't feel like we
won because of how we acted." He also said, "Their energy was better
than ours. Energy level is the most important thing for us."
wasn't that Gannon was lethargic for 40 minutes. They played like their
normal, Tazmanian Devil selves in spurts, such as when Tanner Furno
battled for his 5 offensive rebounds and Robert Wilson dove into the
base of the scorer's table late in the game when an ordinary player
would have watched the ball roll over the sideline. But this wasn't the
suffocating Gannon defense that we've seen put decent guards on their
heels, rushing shots then showing frustration.
Reilly said, "If we want to be a team that wants to be a contender, then
the energy's there regardless. ... If we want to be a contender, our
energy level always to be there." I have a feeling Riles will make sure
the energy is there in practice this week and Wednesday night at IUP.
for all of you who will respond, "Riley should be yelling at himself
for working the guys too hard in practice," please save your breath.
This team is deep and has split plenty of minutes over the first 21
games. Even if practices are difficult, there's no reason in the first
half of a game -- especially when you're battling for an NCAA bid -- you
shouldn't have maximum intensity every possession.
recall a practice early my senior season when Bob Dukiet told us our
effort was good enough to beat many teams on our schedule but he wasn't
going to settle for that. "We have to play every day, every practice,
every possession so we get good enough to beat Virginia Union," he said.
That's the standard he set, and it sparked us to a 22-6 record and a
Porreco Cup championship over Union, the eventual D-II national champs
that year. I hope this edition of Golden Knights learn that same lesson
and whip #8 IUP in a few days.
Other thoughts related to today's game:
It was great to see Troy Nesmith and Chuck Campagne today during the
halftime Hall Of Fame ceremonies. Chuck was my first real boss when I
worked in the Career Concepts office in 1992, and he's earned every
penny he's made. You had to get up really, really early to beat him into
the office. I got to know Troy during several interviews and a photo
shoot for SportsLook magazine back in the mid-90's. I'm also honored to say I played against him when Gannon
scrimmaged an alumni team prior to the 1997-98 season. My main goal that
game was to make sure Nesmith didn't land on my ankle and blow out his knee.
I'd have felt terrible ruining his and the team's season.
I give tons of credit to Lock Haven coach Mike Nestor for quickly
turning the Bald Eagles into a respectable program. Nestor had Gannon
well scouted, recognizing GU's offensive sets and calling them out to
his troops. Lock Haven was clearly outmanned today, but played hard and
smart for most of the game. They'll end this year a dozen games under
.500, but that's not what matters. They are competing and will be a team
to reckon with next year.
* Can you believe today was
Tanner Furno's first career double-double? The senior popped off the
bench for 17 points and 10 rebounds. LHU didn't have an answer for his
crafty moves in the lane or his length.
* Today might have
been Robert Wilson's best offensive performance in a Gannon uniform. He
scored 22 points on just 14 field goal attempts, connecting on 6-of-9
from three-point range. At this rate, we'll see him inducted into the
Gannon Hall of Fame in the near future.
* How about
Darrell Blanton and Adam Blazek producing a combined 2-for-12 shooting
chart and Gannon still wins going away? Besides Furno and Wilson,
impressive Knights were Oscar Macias (15 points, 3-of-5 threes) and
super sub Brandon Emmitt. The redhead guard played just 14 minutes but
scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including a gorgeous drifting
jumper to beat the shot clock buzzer late in the second half.
* Have you looked at the Gannon team stat sheet
lately? Some of the free throw numbers are shockingly good: Macias
(91.8%), Furno (88.2%), Emmitt (86.4%), Algeron Torrence (80.0%),
Blanton (77.1%), and Wilson (77.1%). Blazek was Gannon's best foul
shooter a year ago, and even though he's a respectable 75% this year,
that ranks only 7th on this year's club.
* After today's action, 11-4 Gannon
is once again tied for second place in the PSAC West with Slippery
Rock. SRU lost today at IUP, 55-49. The Big Ind -- I mean Crimson Hawks
-- are 13-2 and I think would lock of the #1 spot in the West with a win over Gannon this week. Edinboro is lurking in 4th at 9-6 after their win at Clarion today. Mercyhurst (8-7) held onto 5th place by rallying past 6th place Cal (7-8) in overtime at the MAC.
* In the battle of the East's top two teams, East Stroudsburg won by 10 at West Chester, 87-77. Stroud (14-1) leads the East by three games while WCU is now tied with Millersville at 11-4.
* If you're wondering about the first regional rankings of the year, you'll have to wonder 18 days longer. The first rankings aren't until Feb. 20 with only two more after that.
* Friendly reminder: In two weeks (Feb. 16), I'll be part
of Pink Zone 2013, the cancer fundraiser coordinated each year by the Gannon women's basketball team. I will sign copies of my book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer with $5 from each sale being donated to the American Cancer Society. The book's regular price is $17.95, but I'll sell it at the Hammermill for just $15. For more details, click here.