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.)
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
* 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.