Friday, November 28, 2014

NCAA-Caliber Defense, Metro League Offense

Before I played for Gannon, most of the time I spent in the Hammermill Center was growing up watching Metro League high school basketball doubleheaders. I was among the 2,800 fans who would see McDowell vs. Prep at 7:00 p.m. ... then I was one the 110 or so folks who would stick around to watch Whitey Kolakowski's East High Warriors scrap against Jim Marnella's Tech Centaurs at 8:30.

In addition to the size and athleticism of the players, the giant difference I noticed between college basketball and high school hoops at the Audi back then was the shooting. In warmups, it seemed that Gannon and every opponent hit at least 80% of their jumpers. Even the benchwarmers -- swish, swish, swish -- with near-flawless form . The high school teams might make only 40% of their uncontested perimeter shots. I recall seeing a Tech benchwarmer nearly bust his nose when a pre-game shot attempt caromed hard off the bottom of the rim.

Gannon's current shooting reminds me of the Metro League teams. Clang, clang, clang went the trolley -- and that's also the noise GU fans have heard most often when their team launches a jump shot over the first half dozen games. During Friday's 47-45 loss to LeMoyne, the Knights shot just 6-of-29 on three-pointers and just 31% for the game. During a 10-minute stretch in the first half, they recorded just 2 points and nearly duplicated that with an 8-minute, 2-point drought in the second period. Oftentimes that's a result of turnovers, but Gannon committed just 13 vs. the Dolphins.

The Knights finished with their best shooting chart of the year in the 73-66 loss vs. Alderson-Broaddus -- 21-of-44 from the field (47.7%), but that's a little deceiving. GU started the game 8-for-9, which means they made only 37% of their field goal attempts after the fast start.

This cause of this problem multidimensional. For one, you have to make your open shots. GU had plenty of open looks against zones this weekend, but misfired on most of their attempts. Lack of aggressiveness is another issue. Too many players don't look to attack the gaps when they have the ball. When the Knights get the ball in the paint, they rarely have uncontested layups or one-on-one post moves. Forwards shoot over 2 or 3 players, and even the most muscle-bound basketball players can't overcome that. Finally, it's amazing how this team can score when they are desperate -- trailing by double-digits. That sense of urgency has to be present on the offensive end from the opening tip and not wane until the final buzzer. The Knights need to push the ball and look to score quickly every chance they get.

All of this is way easier said then done, especially when you're busting your butt on the defensive end like Gannon. But if this offense doesn't improve, we'll see more streaks of 2 wins across 6 games.

Other observations on the weekend:
As I noted before this weekend's Gary Miller Classic, Gannon is one of the best defensive teams in the country, allowing just 51.5 ppg through 4 games. But as anyone over 12 years old knows, statistics can be misleading. For example, Gannon could have played all super methodical opponents which would keep the scoring down. That's not the case here. Following are scoring numbers on the 2014 Gannon opponents prior to the Alderson-Broaddus game (more on why that game is an outlier in a moment). I will list in order the team's season average in games not against Gannon, the number of points they scored vs. Gannon, and then the difference.
     * Glenville State: 87.5 ppg, 57 vs. GU = 30.5 difference
     * Charleston: 71.7 ppg, 54 vs. GU = 17.7 difference
     * Slippery Rock: 69.0 ppg, 51 vs. GU = 18.0 difference
     * Mercyhurst: 66.3 ppg, 44 vs. GU = 22.3 difference
     * LeMoyne: 70.0 ppg, 47 vs. GU = 23.0 difference

*  The stat line for A-B reserve guard Paul Williamson was pathetic entering the Gannon game: 4 games played, 23 total minutes, 0 points on 0-for-5 shooting, including 0-for-3 on three-pointers. I'm guessing he didn't make Gannon's scouting report with that chart. So what did he do vs. the Knights? Williamson, who sat out the past two seasons after playing in 20 games for West Virginia University, blew up for 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting from trey land. Incredible. The Battler fans around me were shocked Williamson had that in him.

* The Gary Miller Classic schedule followed the same pattern as last year: the Knights opened with LeMoyne Friday before tangling with Alderson-Broaddus Saturday. For recaps of last year's games -- I forgot how entertaining/frustrating they were -- click on the links below:
* LeMoyne 65, Gannon 62 -- "Operation Desperation"
* Gannon 55, Alderson-Broaddus 54 -- "Sticking To The Script"


  1. Gannon passes the ball around the perimeter as well as any team in Division II. There are few teams in the country that can match Gannon's offensive output.

    LeMoyne was clearly rattled by Gannon's inability to score.

    Inserting Holm-Weber into the game to run the point with two minutes left in a nail-biter, after having sat the entire second half, was a stroke of genius.

    1. Your should have been Jones and it should have been ALOT EARLIER,,,,,one side of the court was O-FOREVER

  2. 1st half in 5 games this season: 20.4 ppg - seriously.

  3. U G L Y.......
    6 fr 29 3pt =21% from the gunners :(
    50% FT shooting yuk!
    Pass pass pass til you get your opponents eyeballs tired then fire up a shot that you won't hit due to tired arms from passing.
    Like I said I never played the game just an observer.

  4. Was today's game the lowest-scoring game in Division II? Again?

    These defensive slogs are fun if you win, but just plain awful if you lose. We just can't keep putting this kind of pressure on our defense. We need to play great on defense just to stay in the game, and near-perfect defense in order to win.

    Don't get me wrong ... I love watching this team play defense. This may be John Reilly's best defensive team that I've ever seen and that's saying a lot. But what's the point of trying to gain possession of the ball if you can't do anything when you get it? Just get to 60 points in a game and this team could be a juggernaut.

    Having said that, after seeing A-B in the 5:30 game, if Gannon can't score 60 points against that defense (I use that term loosely), we could be in for a long season.

    The 5:30 SRU / LeMoyne game has the potential to be a real dandy. It's the de-facto Gary Miller Classic "championship" game.

  5. Using the same offensive set over and over again and again despite lack of success is pretty much the basketball version of insanity. Need to mix in another set, spread out the defense by adding a fourth player on the perimeter, try to drive the gaps and kick to the perimeter when the defense commits 2 players to the ball. Using quicker players in the post (see #2- Eisendorf?) to escape the double team. Heck, they never even tried to set a screen for the ballhandler until late in the game. Zone offense cannot be successful just swinging the ball back and forth when you shoot less than 25% from 3 point range. Something different has to be attempted sooner. This game reminded me a lot of last year's Lemoyne game. They play zone. We can't figure it out. We shoot poorly. One of their bigs hits a key three. We lose a close game. Deja vu, man.

    One other topic-Porter. He is out there giving his all and busting his rear end, but he looks a lot slower to me this year and seems to run with a slight limp. I remember hearing that he had dinged his knee right about the time that formal practices started. I'd say there's a chance its still bothering him. Opinions?

  6. They got open looks unfortunately they had a player in the lineup who couldn't throw the ball in the bay if he was standing on the dock.


  7. A very fine line: Without a made buzzer beater, we are 1-4.

    A few more 3 pointers made, this team is undefeated. The good thing is there is another game tonight.

    1. "You are what your record says you are." -- Bill Parcells

  8. GU ladies take a smash in the mouth. Grand Valley 95 GU 72
    Don't know the stats, no D obviously and too many TOs.
    Let's hope the men do better.

  9. Actually, there were 2 players who couldn't hit the bay from the dock. Neither 2-12 (0-8 from 3) or 4-16 (2-10 from 3) are any good. Sometimes you can win when one guy is struggling, but when 2 are struggling, it's really difficult.

    On another subject, is it now more obvious to everyone that the Women's team is in some semblance of a slump? Today, they allowed FVSU to shoot 60% from the field, including 65% (WOW) from 3 pt range. Most other stats were fairly even. Lady Knights seemed to have a big problem stopping GVSU.

  10. So re the girls - two questions come to mind and only one can really be applied as the other would be ruled out...

    1) do the Gannon girls really have that much work to do to make a run at NCAA playoffs?


    2) does the gliac just have stronger teams? (That may not be getting the correct recognition).

    The Ashland game was nothing I would concern myself with. Close game, hard fought, and regardless of their record (1-2, which isn't a horrible record for beginning of season - I mean if it was later in the year and Gannon was 12-1 and Ashland was 1-12, different story!) they did win the national championship 2 years ago. So the coach knows what their doing.
    However, losing by 20+ to grand valley, whom appears is not ranked but not sure of their record, concerns me a bit.

    As for the guys - still not in panic mode. Yes, it's mind numbing to see the same thing each game (horrible first half, near perfect second half and either fall short or make complete comeback) however they're 2-0 in psac and I think their defense will give most psac foes fits. (Not to mention Williamson came in averaging 0 ppg and had 23 tonight... Stuff happens!). Anyone know what's up with Toupane? That's a blow! They were starting to click with him in the rotation. Nice to see Dogan show some confidence today like he did... Could be good down the road for him.

    As for porter. You can tell he's lost weight. May have accounted for it in muscle but isn't as "stalky" as he was last year. From what I've seen I think that is affecting his ability to bang with the bigs inside. He may be hurting a whole lot more during and after games this year than last year when he had some more meat on him. Not to mention he does play 110 all game every game! His body may just be sore.

    Let's get through these psac games and hope over the "balance of life" (or whatever the ridiculously long stupid mandated break is called) Gannon can get some more time in get some things figured out and make a run.

  11. There is something about visiting teams making 3 pointers in the 2nd half against us. To say that a comfort zone exists on the north side of the gym for visiting teams is, at times, an understatement. It's been taking place for years.


    I think it's safe to say we suffered two tough losses against two teams that will qualify for the NCAA tournament.

    On a positive note, I sense slight bit of an unclogging with the inside offense......Porter's 6 for 8 free throw shooting is a start. Lay-ups are starting to happen.

    The tough schedule will help this team.

  12. When players shots come up short it usually means that they have lost their legs and not getting the elevation needed. Blazek looked to be a step slow is he hurt?
    For you defensive fans you might want to get a rerun of the Virginia 45 Rutgers 25 game or N. C. Central 40 Northern Arizona 36.
    I know we are only six games into the season but we need to get on a hot streak or we will need to win the PSAC to have a post season opportunity

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    1. Williamson certainly didn't show up in the scouting reports but after his fifth three pointer, would it have been difficult to put a defender on him so that he didn't get off number six and seven. Especially number seven. That was a dagger. Considering Gannon had any number of players more athletic than Williamson, why didn't that happen? Any ideas?

    2. Hard to show up in the scouting report when before that game he'd played 23 mins and was averaging 0.0 points per game (0-8, 0-3). Highly likely he won't have too many games like that.