One of my earliest Hammermill Center memories is a non-basketball one. Back in 1984, Jesse Jackson campaigned in Erie as he traveled America hoping to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. I distinctly recall Jackson speaking at a podium on the north end of the Audi. The floor, plush seats, and bleachers were filled with spectators. I can't remember exactly what Jackson said, but I do recall him being interrupted by a man with a deep, booming voice: "Are you for real? Are you for real?"
Wednesday night, after Gannon's third straight convincing victory, a 75-62 thumping of Lock Haven,
I thought about interrupting John Reilly's post game interview at the
north end of the Audi to ask him if the Knights are for real. They
certainly are playing better -- nobody can argue that -- responding to a
three-game home losing streak with a trio of double-digit wins over Barton (81-58) in the Porreco consolation and this week vs. Mansfield (83-57)
and a respectable LHU squad.
But we could debate all night long if the
Golden Knights are a legitimate threat to compete for the PSAC West
crown and earn an NCAA bid. The combined records of GU's opponents
during this stretch is 9-19, and I guarantee you won't see any of these
teams still suiting up when we flip the calendar to March.
I ask again: is this Gannon team, averaging 79.7 ppg and outrebounding
opponents an incredible 117-68 (39-22 avg) during this streak, a quality
basketball team or not? I think we'll have our answer before the holiday
break with GU traveling to Bloomsburg Saturday.
Huskies were 6-1 on Monday before they traveled to Erie County and fell
victim to both Edinboro (70-61) and Mercyhurst (66-62). BU leads the
PSAC East with a 4-0 mark (tied with East Stroudsburg), but what's their best win this season? Millersville is 2-6, Cheyney's 2-8, Shippensburg
is 1-7, and Lock Haven is 4-4. Their out of conference loss is to 2-8
Chestnut Hill, notable for being the only team Ship has beaten this
season. One independent win is over Penn State-Hazelton; I'm not going
to even look up their win-loss record because all the PSU branch
campuses (except Behrend) are rinky-dink programs.
Okay I lied. PSU Hazelton is 2-10 on the season,
currently mired in a six-game losing streak to Indiana University East,
Penn State-DuBois, Penn State-York, Penn State-Mont Alto, Penn State
Wilkes-Barre, and Penn State-Worthington Scranton. Their two wins this
season are both against Luzerne County Community College. How bad must
LCCC be? No, I'm not going to look that up -- we're supposed to be
talking Gannon basketball!
Okay I lied again. Luzerne is already 0-14 this season, allowing over 100 points in 9 of those contests. How would you like season tickets for that club? Sorry for the digression ...
Bloom's only quality win came at home over a month ago in double OT against now 7-2 Lincoln (Pa.).
What do good teams do against clubs that have played a weak schedule,
have lost to mediocre DII clubs, and have just one decent win all season
long? They handle 'em -- by double figures -- like Gannon has done twice this week.
I know John Reilly will have his
team ready to play. He doesn't just coach every possession like it's his
last, he coaches every second of every possession as if it's do-or-die.
This team was struggling just days ago but Reilly refused to let them
show a losing attitude. He keeps the team so busy and focused, they
don't even consider sulking. Conversely, Mansfield unraveled quickly on
Tuesday and stopped fighting through screens during the second half. On
Wednesday, Lock Haven wilted over the final 10 minutes, succumbing to
Gannon's relentless, thousand-screen offense and harassing defense.
Gannon executes Saturday and handles Bloomsburg on the road, I'll be a
believer this team can win a ton of games this season. For real.