Saturday, February 8, 2014

Laker Breakers

Too many times in recent years I've left the Mercyhurst Athletic Center lamenting one that got away. The Knights have a history of letting winnable games slip past them at the Hurst. Saturday it was Laker fans who were heartbroken when walking through the snowy parking lot after Gannon's 56-54 comeback victory.

The game was a typical Gannon/Mercyhurst slog in the 50s, but some numbers on the stat sheet were surprising. The Knights managed only one offensive rebound all game, but that wasn't the biggest shock to me. Jonathan Ouegnin, Mercyhurst's leading scorer at 10.1 ppg, did not score and attempted only one field goal (a desperation three as the shot clock expired) in 33 minutes of action. C.J. Oldham followed Ouegnin everywhere he went. In 66 minutes vs. the Knights this year, Ouegnin was just 1-of-6 from the field.

After a slow, mistake-prone start to his season, Raphell Thomas-Edwards is proving to be a handful inside. He torched the Lakers with a 7-for-9 shooting chart on his way to a game-high 17 points, 15 tallies coming in the second half. GU scored only 21 points in the first stanza but 35 points in the second, and Thomas-Edwards was a big reason for that. He's strong enough to muscle to the basket between the blocks, agile enough to move around defenders, and skilled enough to put the ball on the floor or even hit a standstill three. Most Division II players are one- or two-dimensional; RTE is not one of them.

Other observations about the game:

* The Knights are one of just three teams to have already clinched a PSAC playoff berth. If you don't believe me, check the PSAC standings. Nationally-ranked East Stroudsburg and IUP are the other qualifiers.

* Gannon won Saturday despite allowing 6 timely threes and fouling Mercyhurst shooters on 2 three-point field goal attempts. I really expected on the game's final possession that the trend would continue and the Lakers would drain a three at the buzzer to break my heart. But Gannon's help defense swarmed the paint and stifled the Hurst's final attempt. GU's help defense was a menace all afternoon.

* I know Gannon's facilities are far from perfect, but Mercyhurst's were borderline embarrassing Saturday. First, why was it 55 degrees in the men's room but 85 degrees in the gymnasium? I was in Puerto Rico last week, and it wasn't that stifling near the equator. And is there a nationwide shortage of orange and red scoreboard light bulbs? Or is the scoreboard repairman on strike? Two of the scoreboards were often unreadable during the game. It was difficult to tell the 2s, 5s, and 8s apart.

* I got a kick out of reading the quote from Laker women's coach Deanna Richard in the paper today after her team was overwhelmed by Gannon, 70-56. "Our girls have to handle adversity a lot better. We get a foul called against us, or we make a turnover, and we seem like we can't recover," she was quoted as saying. I found it amusing these words are attributed to the same person I saw Saturday slamming her palms on the scorer's table and essentially slapping herself in the head when calls didn't go her way. And she behaved similarly at the Hammermill earlier this season.

* Many on this site -- me included -- have moaned about the low attendance at several games this season. It was enjoyable to be crammed in among 1,300 of my friends at the MAC to watch a nip-and-tuck rivalry game. Let's hope a similar crowd turns on Wednesday vs. Edinboro, who rallied past Cal Saturday night.

UPDATED 2/9/14 10:57 PM: I can't believe I didn't mention Adam Blazek in my entry about the Mercyhurst game. Maybe this will make up for it. My daughter and I were watching Washington upset Stanford today in women's hoops, and wow did UW point guard Kelsey Plum remind me of Blazek. Both are left handed, have great range, a quick release, and hesitation moves galore. Check out the highlights from the game and Plum's high school highlight tape and tell me you don't think she might be Blazek's long lost sister.

UPDATED 2/10/14: Raphell Thomas-Edwards has been named PSAC West player of the week, averaging 18.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg during a 2-0 week. With this honor, can we start calling him "RTE" like football fans call Robert Griffin III "RG3"?

21 comments:

  1. Great win! It was your typical, plodding GU / Hurst game. Spectacular play by Blazek for the and-one to tie the game at 54 -- could be the play of the year. Then the well-designed, well-executed in-bound pass after the Hurst bungled the rebound. And they never got a shot off in the last 27 seconds.

    A home win over Slippery Rock and a road win against Mercyhurst makes for a great week! We're 4-1 against the top four of the PSAC West. Will help come tie-breaker time.

    Can't overlook Edinboro on Wednesday. Anything can happen in the PSAC this year, especially in rivalry games!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Continuing the run of zany PSAC results from this year ... on the women's side ... Cal 80, at Edinboro 55

    ReplyDelete
  3. Second straight game Gannon gets outrebounded... When's last time that happened?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well that game was heart attack inducing. GU has survived two REAL tough games with a W against SRU and Hurst. Team has complete control of their destiny right now, if they beat Boro Wednesday, the IUP vs. GU game is effectively the game for the PSAC West Title.

    On a side note, to go along with the crowd, that may have been the loudest the crowd has been in a while, since the end of the IUP vs. GU game. For the Women's game the crowd was LOUD. We need that type of crowd for the game Wednesday.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Blazek taking and making (ahem...) that late shot indeed was one of he plays of the year. Fantastic play by a deserving all-league player.

    Noted above, the steady progression of RTE is a big factor in hopefully our team peaking at the right time. Also, timely shots made by Gibran Smith came in handy yesterday. Gigantic team win in a playoff atmosphere. In the wild PSAC West, anything can happen. Bring on the 'Boro!

    Fan support was fantastic yesterday. Safe to say that we had more fans at the game by a long shot. And yes, even Jim Cantore would have found the temperature differentials throughout the building interesting yesterday.

    Good touch, though, on Mercyhurst recognizing deceased Gannon student from earlier in the week. Classy move.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice to be part of the big mostly pro-Gannon crowd. Raphel came up huge. Mercyhurst had no answer for RTE. And it was Porter, surpise, who hit the last shot. And surprise again, Gannon played zone on that last play when Mercyhurst failed ot get off a shot.

    A lot of Mercyhurst fans seem to have a special disaffection for Blazek. He was the target of some enthusiastic booing. Must be tough be a Laker hoop fan, what with that long tradition of winning nothing, ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wouldn't be right to say "ever", as Lakers of the late 70's made a great run in the NAIA. But I'm certain it felt good to say! And, if you consider 35 years as ever, then completely accurate. And just as much fun to say!

      Interesting (again!) that bluster reigns only after a loss.

      Delete
    2. Maybe that "other" website is up and running!

      Delete
    3. I think gogannongo was referring to ever in NCAA, not NAIA :-) kidding!

      Delete
  7. Just received this email from a Gannon fan:

    A few observations from Saturday at Mercyhurst:

    - Possibly the earliest senior day in history (2/8) especially since they have two more home doubleheaders on the schedule. When was the last time that a school honored their women's seniors but not their mens?

    - Who's brilliant decision was it to set up a concession stand in the narrow walkway to the restrooms? Just wondering!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When did they honor seniors? I was there for both games (actually there about 10 mins before women's game started) and I don't recall any kind of senior recognition..? Not saying it didn't happen (i'll admit I spaced out a few times during the women's game... actually, it was when the whole team spaced out as well though), just don't recall any kind of senior thing occurring.

      Agreed on the concession stand improv. I get the idea of it because probably the most traffic is through there, but they forgot one thing... probably the most traffic is through there.

      Delete
    2. I heard Sean A mention the fact that it was senior day as well for the women's game and I was not in attendance at the time. I thought it was strange as well. Maybe he confused the senior day activities with other pre-game activities for their "hoop for a cure" initiative.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, I'm thinking he misspoke because there was no senior ceremony. They did recognize multiple athletes for different achievements, but that was Men&Women and even Gannon athletes.

      Delete
    4. Being part of the "Super Fan " category, as usual I was there an hour before the start of the Ladies game. I do recall 3 McU
      women ball players called to the floor for Sr Recognition.
      Nice but didn't help. Results the same.

      Delete
  8. This isn't related to Gannon Hoops, but the story and the video are tremendous. Nothing like watching basketball from 60 years ago!

    60 years ago, Furman’s Frank Selvy joined a very exclusive club

    http://www.thestate.com/2014/02/08/3254604/60-years-ago-furmans-frank-selvy.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jim, for the record, I frequently watch the live stats when I can't make it to games, which is often.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Some observations-
    RTE always seems to have a good game against a team with similar-sized players guarding him. That was the case Saturday. He seems to be stronger than most guys his size and can overpower them. As for Blazek's last shot, interesting that he drove to the hoop more than usual, which got him better shots. A couple of his drives required a lot of, er... heart, because under the hoop was no place for the timid Saturday. He got smashed pretty good every time he went in there. I know GU played zone on a couple critical occasions during the game, including at the end of the first half, which allowed a late hoop. However, although I'd feel better watching the play on tape to tell for sure, I thought they were man-to-man at the very end. Someone (it may have been Blazek) saw the pass being made and got a piece of it, allowing the clock to run out without MU getting a shot up. I could be wrong, but I'd be stunned if Coach Reilly would go zone with the game on the line.

    Just got a call from the grammar police. Seems they finally caught our man Jim in an error, for the first time ever. "Who's brilliant decision was it to set up a concession stand?" should be "Whose brilliant decision...". Sorry, Jim. Just needling a little. Hope you'll excuse it after a big win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. they definitely switched to zone at end of first (Hurst PG even looked at Manchel and said "Zone! Zone! Zone!"; Manchel stomped his foot and yelled out some play) and it was one time I didn't agree with them playing a zone because the 3 at the halftime buzzer was practically uncontested.

      I did not see a zone played after Porter's layup. It looked like a modified man defense (not your straight up 1on1), but didn't look like a zone either because they were all over every MC player. Also, from what I saw, I believe it was CJ that got a piece of the ball and it deflected to Smith who dribbled at the speed of the light to avoid MC fouls (or a TO).

      Delete
    2. Post game interview coach stated they played zone on the last play.

      Delete
    3. he didn't say what kind of zone did he? Because it definitely looked like man-to-man. But, hey, that's what coaching is about... disguising things. And the players pulled it off.

      Delete
  11. I've always referred to Raph as RTE or Raph haha I do like the reference of RG III, though. However, I'd hope RTE doesn't have the same sophomore slump that RG III did.

    ReplyDelete