I don't know if John Reilly or any Gannon upperclassmen talked about last season's 85-75 loss to Shepherd (W.V.) before today's 74-56 shellacking of the Rams at the Hammermill Center, but it sure seemed to me the Knights played like they had something to prove. A few statistics and one anecdote made me think this was more than just another game for GU:
* Gannon held Shepherd 22
points below its season scoring average of 78.3 ... and a whopping 29
fewer points than the 2013 loss. The Rams didn't just look
uncomfortable; at times, they looked like they wanted to be back on the bus.
6-foot-6 junior Morgan McDonald entered the game as the Rams' leading
scorer (19.6 ppg) while attempting 13 field goals per game. McDonald
finished with 7 points and just 6 field goal attempts in 31 minutes. He
looked completely overwhelmed by Gannon's stronger and more athletic
* Gannon outrebounded Shepherd, 30-21, but that's
commonplace for a Reilly team. I was stunned the Knights attempted 16
more field goals (57 to 41) for the game. No one on the SU team
attempted more than 6 field goals while Gannon guards Adam Blazek
(11-for-17) and Girbran Smith (7-for-16) got open looks all afternoon.
Those seniors played like they wanted to beat Shepherd by a hundred.
Blazek turned in his best game of this young season. He wasn't just good -- he went off
for 27 very loud points. After tallying 12 in the first half, including
a stinging right-corner three at the buzzer, he was perfect in the
second period. Blazek scored 15 points after halftime, making all 6 of
his field goal attempts including 3 three-pointers. Blazek was hounded
most of the afternoon by Steve Nash wannabe Skyler Roman,
who must have made a few snide comments to the Gannon senior earlier in
the game. With about 3 minutes to play and Gannon in the midst of a
10-0 run that pushed the lead to 26, Blazek held the ball on the right
wing, guarded there by Roman. Blazek jab-stepped at Roman once ... twice
... then a third time before sticking a three in Roman's eye. After the
shot zipped through the net, Blazek made a comment towards Roman,
barked at him again when he crossed midcourt, then blurted out "Yeah,
boy!" to him after a Shepherd turnover seconds later. Roman was promptly
taken out of the game then Blazek buried another three which sent the
Gannon bench into a frenzy.
Last year when these teams
met, "SU" stood for Shepherd University. Today, because of Gannon's
suffocating defense and Blazek's hot shooting, those letters represented
"Shut Up," which is exactly what the Knights did to a pretty talented
GU more than made up for last year's loss to
Shepherd, and they'll have chances next week to redeem themselves for
last season's two playoff defeats. On Tuesday Gannon hosts 5-2 East Stroudsburg, who ended GU's 2013-14 season in the second round of the NCAA's, followed by a Wednesday contest vs. 3-5 West Chester, who won the 2014 PSAC semifinal game 77-76 in overtime. Stroud and West Chester also drilled Gannon during the regular season last year ... which I'm sure Reilly and the Gannon veterans remember all too well.