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.

19 comments:

  1. I'm interested to see how this shakes out. I got that uneasy feeling...but I feel like I always have that feeling anyway. Hopefully they come out strong out of the gate to start the season.

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  2. one thing I like in the standings prior to tonights game... with no games played, Gannon is still HIGHER in the standings than Mercyhurst. Good start :)

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  3. Not surprised by Dogan in the lineup... The day they signed him I figured he'd be a starter unless they brought in some other phenomenal guards (but I doubted they'd find more 6'6 guards haha). and I don't think I would've been surprised with anyone at the 5 (unless they put Cory Bailey or Marcus Jones there haha). Porter does remind me of Blanton in his build and stature, so not a huge shocker. Excited to see if the big guy can produce anything.

    To be honest when roster was finalized (and before redshirts were announced) I thought lineup would be
    Blazek
    Dogan
    Austin
    CJ
    Porter

    And that is nothing against Jabs.. just liked the idea of having 3 dangerous scorers at your 1-3.

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  4. So Gannon men are actually going to play a game? I just assumed that they decided to blow off the season and focus on the women's team since we're hosting the Elite Eight. It does explain why the women are starting at 5:30. :-)

    Seriously, it'll be good to finally get a look at the men's team. I hope that our late start to the season doesn't cost us. The comment in the paper by Coach Reilly on how we are forced into this late-start because of our tournament commitments was telling. Porreco Tip-Off Tourney 2014!!

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  5. Move Up The Cup! Move Up The Cup!

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  6. I don't blame the tourneys... I blame NCAA. Their "restrictions" have caused this. It's not like Gannon just all of a sudden decided to not have many non-conf games and limit it to strictly tourney games.

    Don't Give Up The Cup... have the NCAA focus on players not being paid improperly, not focus on so much "rest periods"

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    1. Blame the PSAC for playing 22 conference games, giving us only four independent games. The tournaments would be choking our schedule regardless of when they are played.

      But most conferences are now playing 20-22 games, so it's not really the PSAC's fault. It's just the reality of the times. Like everyone else does, we need to adjust to the reality, which sometimes forces some hard decisions.

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  7. I AM surprised that Dogan is starting. I had been told by several who have seen practice/scrimmages that he isn't ready for this level yet in several phases of the game. There's more to playing guard than sheer size. Speed is getting to be more important every year. I guess we'll see.

    Based on the M-G Scrimmage, Porter looks like more of a banger to me than Blanton was. Not sure he can explode off the floor like Darrell, either. But then, who can?

    Don't be surprised if you see Newby being capable of scoring from the outside more this year. Was watching him closely at the M-G Scrimmage and he seems to have refined his stroke and was shooting with confidence. If he shows he can hit the outside shot, other teams will have to get up on him a little, and he can take advantage of his more-than-capable ability to drive to the hoop.

    Hate to burst any bubbles, but Gannon is ahead of Mercyhurst in the standings because they list them alphabetically before the season starts. Unfortuntely, it means nothing.

    One other entity to blame re:the schedule fiasco-the PSAC. Playing all those league games and starting them so early in the season also contributes to the problem. No reason to have to play so many crossover games now that they don't count in the standings again.

    I must also reiterate my position on the tournaments. Combine them or alternate the host sponsor each year and hold it at Thanksgiving Weekend. Now that the NCAA regs have cost GU the post-Xmas, pre-New Year's Holiday time frame, why bother holding another tournament in mid-December? Doesn't have the same impact.

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    1. No, Gannon is ahead of Mercyhurst because Gannon is 0-0 and Mercyhurst is 0-1; they would be tied if they both had same record.

      re PSAC: are games against the East not counting towards PSAC conf standings anymore? Because they don't have PSAC symbol listed on schedule next to all the East teams (West Chester, ESU, etc).

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    2. Observor: Because of your comment, "I had been told by several who have seen practice/scrimmages that he isn't ready for this level yet in several phases of the game," I'd like to remind everyone that we need to refrain from criticizing players on this website. The kids read our comments and so do their parents. Thanks.

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    3. I did and was pretty disguised with the comments for the first 12 games of my son's freshman year ... "Waste of a scholarship", "When he goes into a game can't wait for him to get off the court", and "On game day, I wished he was as far from the Omni as possible" to quote a few. I thought may be he made a mistake going to Gannon but realized that: 1) Most who post did not have the whole or even part of the behind the scenes info they were posting about. 2) What mattered is what the coach says. 3) He loved the education he was getting, and 4)Tanner could have cared less what folks said on here ... so why so I?
      IMO general comments about the team or individual play is okay but attacking comments against the person is over the line. I know this conversation about player comments on a blog has been discussed before and I am not trying to stir it up again for all it does is turn into a see-saw back and forth debate that usually ends up in snipping each other. I did want to give a person example that illustrates Jim's point and it is his blog to guardian as he determines.

      Respectfully,
      Kevin Furno

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    4. Re: PSAC rankings: Only division games count. This was one of the major reasons why for WBB it stinks that, for instance, LHU and Cheney games don't count. That's 3 games.

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  8. Fortunate to get out of there with a victory. Hard to draw any conclusions from the first game, especially when it's your first and your opponent's fourth. You don't see a team have more turnovers than field goals in a game and still come away with the win.

    It looks like the same situation offensively as last season ... the offense is extremely efficient when GU doesn't turn the ball over. We shot 49% for the game, but had 21 turnovers. Our defense is its usual solid self. Cal had more threes than twos (shot 7/29 from two-point range).

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  9. Jim LeCorchik asked Sean a question last night, that I would like to also raise to everyone here (without starting a huge debate/argument)... As Jim stated this is by no means questioning Coach Reilly's decisions... but as a personal preference... where do you like Adam better? the 1 or the 2 guard?

    I'm just interested to see other people's preferences on this. Don't need explanations as to why you feel that way, just you personally like him better at which guard spot.

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  10. It was a win at least. Adam played an unbelievable game...it felt like he was always around the ball on defense making his usual rebounds out of nowhere...and offensively he had the hot hand. When Adam is on...he is tough to contain. The defense was good, but I do worry about the fact that the offense wasn't able to crack 60 points against a very average Cal. Maybe it's just some early season rust. If this team can average mid-upper 60s in ppg, with how they play defense they will be tough to beat.

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    1. Hard to score more than 60 with 20+ TOs and 38 fouls (i.e. stoppages in the game). They shot 48% and won while attempting 10 fewer shots than Cal (PA) & that with them out-rebounding Cal by 15. Says to me that there's a ton of room for improvement with a team that was playing its first game, and with new (annoying) rules for officiating. I'm more worried that we never ever ever switch D ... to anything but man. Not that the D is bad, but that there's nothing else to expect. Teams know how Reilly runs a D and can prep end of game more easily. Oh, and that we just have a team that needs more time to gel and can't easily when first two games of the season are in-conference and count.

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