Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sticking To The Script

Just like you, I'm busy with work, family, holidays, and basketball, so I need to develop a time-saving plan that allows me to engage in all my activities and still blog about Gannon hoops. I think I have a solution.

I've created a template which I should be able to use for the rest of the season. After four games, the most recent a 55-54 nail-biter over Alderson-Broaddus in the Gary Miller Classic consolation game, Gannon has established a script from which they rarely deviate. For each game I'll use this template and simply strikethrough the words that don't apply to this particular game. I'll add a handful of Knight Knotes at the end for extra details about the contest. Here we go ...

Once again, Gannon scored in the 50s, and that led to another mind-numbing, frustrating loss which will most certainly tick off the GU faithful who are still paying attention but managed to pull out a pulsating win because of their ultra-aggressive, man-to-man defense. The Knights suffered through another stretch where the offense bogged down, this time scoring just zero one two three four five six points during a seven eight nine twelve fifteen thirty-nine minute stretch. It seems like Gannon has decent individual players who should be able score, but every so often today tonight they handled the ball like it was on fire, and lost their aggressiveness and settled for 40 passes or 100 dribbles each possession, drop-kicked the ball into the concession stand and forced themselves into low-percentage attempts as the shot clock wound down.

Yes, I'm happy with a win, of course I'm ready to jump into the bay after another narrow loss. As former coach Tom Chapman was fond of saying, "I'd rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss. Don't fire howitzers at the backboard, Roddy. Get off the floor!" I'm not sure how many more of these games I can take. It's kind of sad when I was elated that Gannon didn't mistakenly puncture the ball on their opening possession scored 32 points in the first half, but that's the state of the team this year. This club is special on defense, which hopefully will carry them to more wins in low-scoring contests keep future teams in the 40s so we can win a game by double-digits for a change.

Knight Knotes:
* Of course I root for every Gannon player, but it was especially gratifying to see Matt Dogan hit all 4 of his field goal attempts. He entered the game just 4-for-18 from the field, but helped bust the A-B zone with a trio of long-distance shots in the first half. Watching Dogan's grandmother pump her fist after every make made my Thanksgiving weekend.

* Gannon was more prepared for the Battlers' zone Saturday than they were LeMoyne's extended 2-3 Friday night. Against the Dolphins, GU basically swung the ball wing-to-wing until the shot clock ran out. Gannon gave A-B several different looks -- including dribble penetration -- which led to relaxed, open shots for the Knights.

* The next time Alderson-Broaddus plays at Gannon, maybe they should just turn the ball over on their final possession. Against the Knights in the 2009 Atlantic Region Semifinals, A-B's Terrell Eargle missed a last-second three on the Hammermill Center's north hoop as Gannon advanced, 67-65. Saturday, Stuart Clark missed a three-point attempt on that same basket as GU survived by a point. No wonder moments after the game A-B head coach Greg Zimmerman looked as if he heard the Grinch actually did steal Christmas.

* The announced crowd for the game was 502, not anywhere close to what Gannon officials were hoping for, but you couldn't expect much more for a 5:30 consolation game. I had to race from my daughter's basketball practice to the Hammermill and still arrived several minutes into the contest. If you're wondering what the Audi looked like when I walked in, here you go:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Operation Desperation?

I'll save most of my comments for after Saturday's Gary Miller Classic consolation game vs. a good Alderson-Broaddus team. After Friday's 65-62 home loss to LeMoyne I'm vexed about exactly how to feel. I'm certainly not thrilled, but I'm not despondent yet.

In the final 8 minutes of the game, the Knights played with a sense of desperation, cranked up their aggressiveness, and started making plays against the Dolphins' 2-3 matchup zone. The angel/Knight on my shoulder says signs of life on offense is a positive. The devil/Laker on my other shoulder is imploring me to scream, "Gaaaa! Why didn't Gannon play that way for the first 32 minutes?"

Talking with Jim LeCorchick on the JET Radio 1400 broadcast, we both saw early on that Gannon was content moving the ball side-to-side without even considering penetrating the zone's gaps. The end result were forced or rushed three-pointers, Gannon making only 5-of-28 attempts.

As John Reilly said in the post-game show, he's glad the Knights only have to wait a day to get back at it and right their wrongs. But if a quick and talented Alderson-Broaddus team sends GU to a third consecutive loss, Gannon fans will be at a different level of desperation before the December schedule even starts.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Getting To The Point(s)

The clear trend after two Gannon games this season is a lack of scoring. After tallying just 59 in their season-opening win over Cal, the Knights managed only 52 today in a 56-52 loss at Seton Hill. I'd like to share some earth-shattering insights with you, but the press release from the Gannon sports information department said pretty much everything in the opening sentence:

The Seton Hill men's basketball team held Gannon scoreless for the final 4:02 and without a field goal for the final 8:31 en route to a 56-52 victory Saturday night in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division action at the McKenna Center.

What else do you need to know? If the Knights would have registered just two measly field goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes, they'd have a road win under their belt. Gannon is clearly special defensively, but you've got to get out of the 50s to win consistently in the shot-clock era.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy At The Hammermill

I know Wednesday night's season-opening 59-51 win over California (Pa.) was a ragged affair lacking many style points, but I was thrilled just to be back at the Hammermill Center for Gannon hoops. No matter how much the roster (or uniforms) changed, there were several things that made us Gannon fans feel right at home:
- Adam Blazek setting the pace (20 points) with twisting moves, hesitation dribbles, quick-release threes, and how'd-he-do-that steals
- Gannon assistant Chris Viscuso in the game's closing minutes, veins popping on his head, while screaming "RELAX!" to his troops
- official scorer Rick Klapthor correcting an overzealous opposing assistant coach, continuing Stats' decades-long streak of infallibility
- another John Reilly team that scraps, scrambles, and battles on defense and drubs its opponents on the boards (37-22).

Getting my first look at this Gannon team, I was impressed with them offensively despite 21 turnovers (12 in the first half). As Golden89 pointed out in the comments section, GU shot 49% from the field when they were able to get a shot off. The Knights were out of sync on offense -- it's November basketball, remember -- and I 'd rather have an athletic team with good-looking shooting strokes needing to gel together than the reverse of that.

Other thoughts and observations from the game:
* It was evident to everyone in downtown Erie that freshman starter Matthew Dogan was pressing in his first collegiate game. A can't-miss shooter in high school, Dogan misfired on his first 5 attempts as a Golden Knight and was scoreless at halftime. When he drained a three-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes to play, giving Gannon a 48-42 cushion, you could hear all of West Middlesex, Pa. exhale. From what I saw and what I've heard, when Dogan is able to relax, he will be an outstanding player. As former National Player of the Year Danny Ferry said back in the day, at the start of your freshman year the game seems to be moving 100 mph. As you mature, everything seems to slow down.

* One more observation of Dogan: despite his cold shooting night, he demanded the ball when Cal was fouling in the final minute and hit on five consecutive free throw attempts.

* And before anybody starts to panic about Dogan's first game, remember Adam Blazek's debut in 2011. The Prep grad missed his first 7 field goal attempts and committed a team-high 4 turnovers as the Knights lost at home to Daemen.

* I really love the contribution junior starter A'Darius Porter makes when he's on the floor (36 minutes vs. Cal). Porter, a muscular post player who is built like The Thing from the Fantastic Four, fought his way to 13 rebounds and demanded the ball when posting up. He's a legitimate post threat that will open up GU's perimeter game.

* Junior transfer Raphell Thomas-Edwards is a much different post player than Porter, but I'm a fan of his game as well. He's high energy, super athletic and relentless on both ends of the floor. In just 13 minutes vs. the Vulcans, the University at Buffalo transfer produced 5 points and 7 rebounds.

* As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Jabs Newby and C.J. Oldham have expanded their offensive games. Newby can accelerate like a Porsche when he has the ball, but we didn't see him attempt any long jumpers Wednesday. Oldham scored 9 points, all of them from close range. Those two will see plenty of playing time this year, and if they can produce on offense, that will take some pressure off the Gannon defense to keep opponents in the 50s.

* One of the Cal assistant coaches was wearing a bowling shirt and corduroy slacks. My prediction is we won't see that again this year at the Hammermill.

* Speaking of fashion, the Knights debuted their gold uniforms last night. Not to put pressure on anybody, but the last season Gannon introduced gold unis was 1989-90, and that team won the region and advanced to the Elite 8.

UPDATED 11/21/13 7:30 PM: Here's the link to the video highlights and John Reilly post-game interview from last night. I think I saw something pretty cool at the 2:45 mark. Porter has the ball in the post and is feeling the pressure from the Cal defense. Look in the background and you'll see sitting on the end of the Gannon bench is walk-on Cory Bailey. Watch him stand up and point to an open Dogan at the top of the key. I swear Bailey shouts "kick it out" to Porter who does just that, leading to a key three-pointer. If that's what happened, major kudos to Bailey for being a great teammate. He's showing how important every member of the team can be.