Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In The Zone

I'm writing this entry a full 24 hours after the Knights upset #5 Indiana (Pa.) in overtime Wednesday night, 67-61, and I kind of still can't believe it happened. I fully expected IUP to win the game, even when Gannon bolted to a 10-0 lead. But in the second half and OT the Knights never withered, consistently making shots and getting timely stops. Since my head is still spinning, I'll offer some stream-of-consciousness thoughts related to the game:

* Maybe John Reilly executed the college basketball version of the rope-a-dope vs. the Crimson Hawks. How much money would you have bet the Knights were going to play man defense with the game on the line, the final regulation possession of a tie contest? I'd have bet everything I owned. I nearly fell off my plush seat when I saw a 1-2-2, and IUP coach Joe Lombardi probably kicked his chair when he saw his team scramble to force up a desperation three as the shot clock, then the game clock, expired. It was a gusty call by Reilly, and it paid off. (If you don't believe me that GU played zone -- and I wouldn't blame you -- fast forward to the 3:43 mark of the video to watch the final possession of regulation.)

Reilly went back to his back of tricks in overtime, showing a 3-man-across half-court trap that befuddled IUP once again. Many of us on this site have publicly scratched our heads at some of Gannon's strategy (or lack thereof) this season, but you have to say "Bravo!" to the coaching staff for this game-winning adjustment.

* GU played zone on a few possessions each half and I think I know why we don't see it more often. The Knights don't rebound well in the zone. They're not matched up on a guy, so you have to find someone when a shot goes up -- a more difficult task than boxing out the man you're already guarding. Rebounding is the key to Reilly's defensive scheme, and more zone would hurt the Knights in that regard.

* The scoring spurts in this game were entertaining. At the 10-minute mark, GU led 16-5. Over the next 10 minutes, IUP outscored the Knights 20-6, taking a 25-22 halftime lead. Then, just when you think the Knights forgot how to score, they tally 20 in the next 10 minutes to IUP's 14.

* IUP did not score its first field goal until 6:55 into the game, and that basket came on a loose ball. Gannon's half court defense was as good as we've seen it this year. Credit also should go to the Hammermill's 6th Man who clearly flustered the highly ranked Hawks. About 3 minutes into the game, coach Lombardi turned to his bench and said, "The environment can't rattle you." How many coaches have had the opportunity to say that in the Audi this year? I can tell you it didn't happen for this game.

* You can read more about the game in this article from the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette. This is my favorite Lombardi quote from the article: "Gannon did a good job defensively. They were rotating and flying around. Our chance to win it was probably in regulation. We had the ball with time left, and they switched to zone and we didn’t get a good shot. We actually got a better shot on the rebound. It was Gannon’s night, and sometimes it’s just the other team’s night. But I’ve struggled with this team, wondering if we have the toughness and resiliency to keep battling one more play. That’s mental talent. We’re going to get better at it. Tonight some guys got an education, and maybe it will open up some ears and make us better."

* It was really great to see former Knight Steve Piotrowicz serving as an active member of the IUP coaching staff last night. I've watched him since he was 4-foot-nothing playing for Our Lady's Christian School and the Erie Red Storm, so it was gratifying to see him on the sidelines in a suit. Perhaps my only disappointment was that he didn't chuck a water bottle onto the court during the final possession of regulation to give Gannon two free throws. C'mon Steve -- help out your alma mater! In all seriousness, I think Piotrowicz will be a superstar head coach some day. He's proven to us Gannon fans he has the passion, the smarts, and the perseverance to accomplish great things. I just hope he gives me a chance to interview for an assistant's job when he's named Gannon's head coach in the future.

* We debated on this site recently if letting Adam Blazek create on his own with the game on the line was a wise decision. If anyone questions that strategy in the future, please point them to the 3:24 mark of this video. Case closed.

* As Golden89 mentions in the comments below, Gannon did not substitute the final 18 minutes of the game. Yet they still wore out IUP. I don't know what that's called -- stamina? will power? conditioning? -- but it's admirable.

* The Hammermill looked mostly the same since we were there pre-fire, but the new concourse lights, new nets, and a new door were noticeable. I also saw in the northwest corner of the gym in the hallway leading back to the lockerrooms the old porcelain fountain and incredibly gross spit sink were replaced by an aluminum fountain and a sensor-activated water bottle filling station. Welcome to the 2000s, Audi.

* Lest we forget ... this game won't mean much if the Knights stumble at 0-5 Edinboro Saturday.


  1. WOW great win. Gibran Smith may be the extra offensive source we were looking for. Do I think Reilly is still our guy? No. But his hot seat definitely has cooled off quit a bit with that W. Reilly has got to continue to evolve his coaching style and be willing to switch things up and tailor your coaching techniques and philosophies with your current team. He has got to be willing to change and improve.
    Were only a game back from 1st place in the West. A must win game and we won!

  2. Nice see what happens when the offense plays aggressive and takes quick but smart shots. I have to give the coaches credit for throwing in a zone late in the game. That's the sort of creativity we've been waiting years to see.

  3. Gutty performance. The five guys who finished the game played the last 13 minutes of regulation and the entire OT (and two of them played the majority of that stretch with four fouls). And the number five team in the country was the one that looked tired and flustered at the end. I was tired after the game and I didn't play.

    We did what we had to do ... play decent offense (shot 47%), play the rebounds evenly or better (GU 34 rebs, IUP 29), and control turnovers -- only 13 to IUP's 16.

    Let's somehow get some rest and keep the momentum into Edinboro.

    Coupled with the Lady Knights win, what a great way to reopen the Hammermill Center!

  4. Well: Maybe that was the juice the team needs in order to get a 2nd half run going. Hell of an effort by the team tonight, both teams.

  5. Looked like GU's night from the start. A couple unconventional, wildly-taken shots went in and IUP's terrible, sleepy start negated Blazek's foul trouble, enabling GU to stay in the game even with Adam out. When he returned with a lot of energy in the second half, the Knights were able to take it to an IUP team that played like they just got off the bus. Also, did anyone notice the zone that GU threw in there a few times and even a half court trap on one occasion. Guessing the visitors weren't ready for that. Porter making several 15 footers was an unexpected problem for them as well. GU threw the kitchen sink at them, shot extremely well and controlled the tempo in the second half. Do all that and you have the formula for an upset.

  6. For most of the entire game: 4 juniors and a senior on the court. Outstanding win against an excellent team. It puts this team right back into the "mix" on the West side of the ledger!!!

    We all saw the emergence of Smith, in spurts, during the Cheney game. Last night, in a much bigger stage, he stepped-up with some very key shots. The team has pretty much about 12 hours to enjoy this gigantic win........then, onto the 'Boro in what will be another slugfest Saturday afternoon.


    Solid ex-guard Steve Piotrowicz looked to be comfortable in his element as an IUP assistant. It appears that the rest of the coaching staff deferred to him a bit during a few time outs. Great for him!!

    (Ironically, he had a fantastic game against IUP a few short years ago down at their place....pretty much carrying the team on his back!!)

  7. I think the difference in this game was Mr. Roddy texting plays that the IUP coach drew up over to the Gannon bench. Nice assist Mr. Roddy!

  8. How about the clutch shots Adam Blazek MADE?!!!!

  9. Hey need to yell...I'm joking...maybe Jim will chime in and explain my comment.

  10. Yeah.....and I noticed Steve P was facing him during time outs!!!


  11. Hey no-one's said on here.
    Big "way to go" and 2 "atta boys" and a "back slap" to John T Reilly for
    his 150th win behind the bench for Gannon.
    Looking forward to 151 on Saturday.

  12. Now that's the way you play baskeball. Great team work Gannon. It take more than one player to win games.


  13. Let's not forget the intense strength and conditioning programs the team undertakes under the direction of Coach Viscuso. Win or lose, game in and game out, no team we've seen is better conditioned than Gannon.

  14. Jim-noone ever said that Blazek should never take clutch shots, just that he shouldn't always be the one to take the last shot. And that he shouldn't always have to settle for a long distance three. So no 'case closed' here.
    Still alot of basketball to be played

    1. That's not what Jim said. Jim said we debated if Blazek should be "creating when the game is on the line". And just about everyone did say that Blazek should not be "creating" in that situation. So, in that respect, it is case closed because Blazek showed he can create a play when it counts.

  15. Corey- point me to where that debate occurred- you are misremembering the debate and the problem that a number of people had was why Blazek was always the guy to take the final shot and never anyone else. It came down to predictability

    1. jim busbeeDecember 23, 2013 at 12:17 AM
      And everyone wonders why I complain about Reilly and his staff. This is the 3rd season in a row that Reilly has Blazek create in a close game where we need a basket at the end to win or tie. To my knowledge Blazek has yet to create a basket when it was really needed.

    2. It was never specifically said that people didn't want blazek taking the last shot. It was that they didn't like him "creating" in crucial situations. That would mean taking the shot or finding someone else.