I thought I would find Gannon fans semi-panicking during the pre-game and halftime of Gannon's 64-51 win over Slippery Rock Wednesday evening, but I was dead wrong. Entering the game an uncharacteristic 0-2 and tied at halftime after the offense sputtered to only 26 points, Golden Knight fans I interacted with were confident their club would be fine. The work ethic and talent are certainly there, they told me, and it's just a matter of time before shots fall and GU picks up a W.
That exactly what happened in the
second half. Rich Austin hit the glass and contributed 10 points,
complementing Girbran Smith's 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. I found
great joy watching Austin and his teammates celebrate the redshirt
senior's return to the court. After playing just 8 minutes combined in
the two season-opening contests, Austin broke open the SRU game open
with 8 consecutive close-range points to make a 32-30 nailbiter a more
comfortable 10-point advantage. After his third basket, which resulted
in a quick Rock timeout, Austin let out a primal scream and was mobbed
by his teammates. (You can watch it on this video beginning around the 2:30 mark. I also like Coach Reilly exhorting his team to stop their celebrating and get to the bench. Now!)
don't know how many games this Gannon team is going to win -- maybe 17,
maybe 20, or maybe more. Last night showed us they will be fun to watch
if you like intense basketball. They won't be a thing of beauty on
offense, but they will crash the boards hard and hit the floor even
harder when there's a loose ball.
Other thoughts on the satisfying win:
* The homes for Gannon's starting lineup were the Bahamas, Senegal, England, Georgia ... and Erie.
Slippery Rock didn't commit its first foul until the 10:17 mark of the
first half, but I noted that SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds' first
complaint to the officials was registered just 24 seconds into the game,
and he pretty much kept up that pace the entire contest. I've seen some
annoying, whiny coaches in my day, and Reynolds ranks near the top. I
don't think all evening two possessions went by that he didn't gripe at
the officials about something. I'm not exaggerating with that statistic.
He reminds me of a 4-year-old who needs a nap but refuses to lie down.
Gannon has held its three opponents -- three quality Division II
opponents -- to 57, 54, and 51 points. Bob Dukiet would be very proud of
* I'm not much for predictions, but I'll bet you a dozen donuts Slippery Rock's Antonio Butler does not repeat as PSAC West player of the week.
Entering the game averaging 13.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg, Butler left the
Hammermill scoreless (on an 0-for-8 shooting chart) and with only 2
rebounds in 19 minutes. Late in the game, he committed an offensive foul -- which Reynolds protested of course -- out of frustration.
Quite a Jekyll-and-Hyde game for A'Darius Porter: 4 turnovers and just 2
points on 1-of-7 shooting, but a game-high 12 rebounds, none of them
easy. Nobody plays harder between the blocks. Porter went after a loose
ball with such reckless abandon, I swear he hit his chin on the floor
... then sprinted down court to set more screens.
* Newcomer Marcus Jones' stat line was
quiet -- 0 points, 1 assist, 1 turnover in 11 minutes -- but his on-ball
defending impressed me. Over the past three seasons, Adam Blazek has encountered foul trouble guarding the opponent's main ballhandler. Jones showed last night he can fill that role in spurts.
* If you don't understand what my headline to this post references, click here for the YouTube video. Classic.