Saturday, March 15, 2014

NCAA First Round: #5 Gannon 66, #4 Charleston (WV) 64

C.J. Oldham's season-saving tip-in.
I'm absolutely thrilled Gannon won its NCAA first round game Saturday night against Mountain East champ Charleston (WV), 66-64, but not just because they advanced to the second round. I'm happy for the team because they were left for dead by almost all of us in early January and by many of us watching the video broadcast tonight. GU blew a 14-0 lead and trailed by 5, 50-45, with under 10 minutes to play. All the momentum was with Charleston, and all I could do is stare at my computer monitor and watch the season slip away.

The Knights were running uphill. They had been outscored by 19 over the last 24 minutes of action, were racking up the turnovers, and team catalyst Adam Blazek hadn't scored a field goal. At that point, would you have bet money Gannon was going to survive and advance? But from that point on, Gannon held the athletic and skilled Golden Eagles to just 11 points, not including a desperation heave at the buzzer.

Also gratifying is that everybody who was on the floor contributed. With 3 minutes on the game clock and 3 seconds on the shot clock, Girbran Smith faked, dribbled, and hit a 16-footer near the free throw line as the buzzer sounded, breaking a 58-all tie. When the Knights trailed by 1 with under 90 seconds to play, senior C.J. Oldham -- who didn't start and played only 16 minutes -- outjumped and outefforted everyone else to tip in Smith's miss, giving Gannon a 62-61 lead. That was the score (after a Raphell Thomas-Edwards block) when Blazek stepped to the line with an "0-for" hanging over his head. Mr. Clutch hit both, then A'Darius Porter grabbed his 11th rebound and hit both ends of his 1-and-1 as well to clinch the victory.

Bottom line (in my opinion): On this night, Charleston looked better than Gannon. But the Knights were tougher on the court and between the ears. Gannon's 14-0 start was executed by a calm team against a jittery one. And Gannon executed in the final minutes while UC missed free throws and was discombobulated in their half-court game.

Teams "step up their game" in the postseason, but I suspect this was not the most difficult situation the Knights have faced all year. Not only did the PSAC West prepare them for this moment, but John Reilly's never-relax-for-a-second approach to the game pushed them over the finish line tonight.

A few other thoughts on the game:
* I really have to hand it to Jabs Newby. The kid had reasons to quit working hard -- heck, even quit the team -- but he came through tonight when the Knights needed him. Newby shocked everyone by starting, playing 16 solid minutes (only 1 turnover), and hitting for 8 points, including just his second three-pointer of the season. Former Gannon coach Bob Dukiet would always preach "sooner or later ... sooner or later you'll get your chance." Tonight was Newby's time, and he came through.

* When has Charleston seen a defense like Gannon's all year? The Knights are special on that end of the floor.

* Speaking of defense, before Smith hit his big jumper to snap the 58-58 tie, Gannon was getting killed inside by big man Aleksander Kesic. So Reilly switched to a 1-2-2, collapsed on Kesic, and forced a long jumper. Even the most anti-Reilly Gannon observers have to applaud that move.

* Thank goodness Girbran Smith didn't pick up his 5th foul down the stretch. He finished with a game-high 21 on 8-of-15 shooting. He deserves tons of credit for continuing to work despite very limited playing time earlier in the year.

* Two questions I don't have answers to: Does anybody know why Oldham did not play the first 10 minutes of the game? And was Tee Talley in uniform? I was told he didn't make the trip but haven't had that confirmed.

* I know the answer to this question: Who would have thought Gannon would win an NCAA game with Blazek ending the night 0-for-7 from the field? Nobody. Blazek was harassed all evening by super-quick UC guard Tino diTrapano -- UC knew where Blazek was all evening long and really bodied him up. However, the junior missed his share of open looks. Blazek has played a lot of ball, but this was his first-ever NCAA tourney game.

* Gannon was about 4 inches away from playing #8 seed Livingstone Sunday night at 7:30. The Blue Bears rallied from 10 down late but left a jumper short just before time expired in front of a capacity crowd at East Stroudsburg. The result was an ESU victory, 99-98. The announcers said after the game back in 1990 Stroud won an NCAA game by that same score (vs. Slippery Rock in overtime). Guess what happened the next evening? The Warriors had their season ended by Gannon. All of Erie is hoping for a repeat of that.

* I wanted to keep on this site to a link to this web page assembled by the Gannon sports information department. You can access everything you need to know about the Atlantic Region tournament from there.

21 comments:

  1. #3 IUP becomes the first men's team in the Atlantic Region to advance via a 75-68 victory over #6 West Chester. Mathis Keita led IUP with 29 points, 16 coming from the foul line. WCU made four more field goals, but IUP hit 32 of 46 free throws. Here's the box score:

    http://esuwarriors.com/custompages/MBB/2013-14/HTML/ncaa-1.htm

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  2. West Liberty becomes team #2 to win, defeating Glenville State 79-60.

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    1. You got the first part right, but the final score was 88-72. Either way, West Liberty advances and covers the spread. Here's the box score:

      http://esuwarriors.com/custompages/MBB/2013-14/HTML/ncaa-2.htm

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  3. Congrats to former Gannon women's coach Jodi Kest on her Akron team winning the MAC tourney and qualifying for what I believe will be her first NCAA bid at Akron. Maybe she can bring some luck to former assistant Jim Brunelli today. :-)

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  4. Someone needs to tell 7-seed Texas A&M International that their game against second-seeded Tarleton State has started. With 7:34 to go in the first half, Tarleton State leads, 32-4. Ouch.

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  5. The Gannon women end their spectacular season losing to only one team. The fell for the fourth time today to Edinboro, 77-69. Tremendous season and careers for the seniors.

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    1. Great season for Lady Knights. It's always sad when it ends, but this one will sting for quite a bit longer, since the table was set by having the Elite Eight at Erie Insurance Arena.

      Edinboro is a bad matchup for us with their speed under the hoop and tall guards. Boro was 6/9 on threes today. Combined with their 10/14 last Sunday, they were 16/23 from behind the arc in two games vs. GU. Not going to beat Edinboro when they shoot like that.

      Focus is now on the men to start their run with a win tonight.

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  6. Ode to the girls - better luck next year

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  7. First one-seed in men's tournament just fell ... #8 Tuskegee (just outside Montgomery, AL) improves to 19-11 with a 98-95 win over South region #1 and host Florida Southern in Lakeland, FL.

    Meanwhile, East Stroudsburg is up 48-46 at halftime against Livingstone.

    It's tough to win in the NCAA tournament, no matter where you are seeded.

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    1. Florida Southern has former Knights Stephen Battle and Bubby Johnson on its roster. They lost despite 46 points from teammate Kevin Capers.

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  8. Stroud nearly blew a 10-point lead, but held on vs. Livingstone, 99-98. The ESU fans held their breath as a Livingstone 16-footer hit the front iron just before the buzzer. Coincidentally, Stroud's only other NCAA win came back in 1990 at the Hammermill Center vs. Slippery Rock by the same score of 99-98. Their season ended the next evening vs. Gannon. Let's hope history repeats itself!

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  9. WBB Halftime from the middle of nowhere: Bloomsburg 46, Glenville 25.

    Utter domination. Shows the strength of the PSAC that the third-best team is trashing the top team from the MEC. Bloomsburg is doing whatever it wants to out there. Glenville's defense is awful. Glenville started out 3/24 from the field and rallied to 6/29.

    If Bloom hangs on, then it will be two consecutive Atlantic Regionals that the PSAC will have won every game against non-PSAC teams.

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  10. The #4 Bloom women KO'd #1 Glenville, 91-78. All Edinboro has to do is beat a lower seed and they play for the national championship in Erie County.

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  11. Who would have thought 28 minutes into the game Adam Blazek and I would have the same number of field goals? UC is definitely keying on Blazek and daring everyone else to beat them.

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  12. Amazing win ... Blazek had zero FG's, but Gannon was able to cobble together the win. I also startled my nine-year old when Porter hit the free throw that iced the game. She said, "Good game."

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  13. Great win for the men. Sad for our ladies.
    Aside from the game, which I leave to others with more knowledge then I to analyze. The announcers from UC doing the video feed were so neutral I almost thought they were for Gannon.

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    1. They weren't from Charleston. They were from the West Liberty TV network. IMHO, they did a pretty nice job for university broadcasters. I appreciate their televising the game.

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  14. Some of our old friends were in action at the NCAAs last night as well. None of these were big upsets:

    - LeMoyne was dumped by St. Anselm, 73-62
    - Herb Magee and Philadelphia lost a *heartbreaker to Franklin Pierce, 66-65. (* if you believe Herb has a heart)
    - #6 Michigan Tech sneaked past region #3 and national #14 Southern Indiana, 75-70
    - Findlay blew a 4-point lead with only 7 seconds remaining and lost to Lake State in OT, 88-83. UF gave up a layup, then hit 1-of-2 free throws, and then allowed a three just before the buzzer.

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  15. At least the GU Men won, that was a HUGE win for them. ESU will be tough tonight, but anything is possible! Heartbreak for the GU Women, as one of the fans down here in WV, this was completely painful. What a tough loss.

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  16. Heard that Oldham has the flu and wasn't feeling well enough to start the game. Made it all the more impressive that he was able to play at a high level, let alone outjump everyone in the final minute for the game winning tip-in.

    Hope he feels better today -- we will need him at his best if we want to have a shot at upsetting Stroudsburg.

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