by stifling Mercyhurst, 55-46. What felt just as good was the atmosphere in which the game was played -- a vociferous crowd of about 2,500 shook the Audi rafters for most of the afternoon. Even if the Knights had blown their early 14-point lead and lost, I would have enjoyed the intense but cleanly played contest.
the crowd, it's difficult to have a unique take on yet another
50-something to 40-something Gannon/Mercyhurst game. I've said these
contests are usually like a trip to the dentist, and that was again the
case today -- figuratively and literally. Mercyhurst shot a painful 26%
from the field, connecting on only 12 field goals the entire afternoon.
The first half produced a statistic I had never seen before: 9 starters
combined for just 2 field goals in the opening 20 minutes. Adam Blazek,
3-for-7 in the opening half, had more field goals than the other 9 starters combined!
guard Gerrae Williams will actually need to visit the dentist next week
because he broke a tooth running into an A'Darius Porter screen late in
the contest. True to the gutty nature of this game, Williams picked up
his tooth, set it on the scorer's table, and returned to action.
More observations from Saturday:
Unless Mercyhurst suffers a February collapse, Gary Manchel gets my
vote for PSAC Coach of the Year. His team isn't ultratalented, but they
play hard and smart. Today was the first time I sat behind the
Mercyhurst bench (thanks to Hurst athletic director Joe Kimball and
former Gannon President and now Mercyhurst administrator Msgr. David
Rubino for not giving me the boot), and I was really impressed with Manchel. He
teaches and encourages. He scolds when appropriate. He has Gannon well
scouted. If the Lakers had an Adam Blazek or a Girbran Smith, we'd all
be crying ourselves to sleep tonight.
* Based on that prior comment, am I getting Manchel-Mania?
* If John Reilly
treats his wife and daughter to dinner tonight and he orders submarine
sandwiches for them, that will be one more sub than he asked for during the
entire second half of today's game. Blazek, Smith, Porter, and Jean Yves
Toupane each played the final 20 minutes of the game without taking a breather. Raphell
Thomas-Edwards was replaced by Rich Austin with 16 minutes to play, and
Austin gave way to freshman Daniel Kaigler near the 9-minute mark.
Gannon set the tone early on offense pounding the ball inside to
Thomas-Edwards and Austin. The pair recorded 10 of GU's 27 first half
points. Smith, who was held without a field goal attempt in the first
period, erupted for 12 tallies after halftime. One of my favorite Smith
plays came with Gannon leading by 9 with just under 6 minutes to play.
That's the time of game when the leading team could start playing
tentatively. But after a Gannon defensive rebound, Blazek pushed the
ball up the left wing to Smith who caught it, ball faked, took a
dribble toward the basket, and zipped home a 16-footer. That gave Gannon
an 11-point lead and forced a Laker timeout.
was a moment in the game when Gannon's Jean Yves Toupane was guarding
Mercyhurst's Jean Onana, possibly the first Jean vs. Jean matchup in
Hammermill Center history. Write it down -- historic day.
* I just looked at the
Gannon stats and was surprised that Kaigler has played 61 minutes and
scored only 24 points. It seems like within seconds of entering games
lately the freshman jumping jack hits a bucket or two. He was 2-for-2 from the
field and recorded an emphatic block to thwart a Laker run today.
With February upon us and the Knights among the best in the region,
it's time for scoreboard watching. Three of the top 5 in the PSAC West
lost tonight -- Mercyhurst, Slippery Rock (77-59 at UPJ), and Cal (68-59
at home to Edinboro) -- and so did PSAC East leader East Stroudsburg
(61-58 at Millersville). The Mountain East leaders are starting to beat
up on each other as well, West Liberty winning today at Charleston
(W.V.) by 18.
UPDATED 2/2/15: Lots of press releases today filled with good news for Gannon basketball fans:
* Knights Ranked 8th In Latest CoSIDA Atlantic Region Poll. This is for entertainment purposes only but is still good news.
* Adam Blazek Named PSAC West Player Of The Week ... for the third time this season
* Women's Hoopster Nettie Blake Named PSAC West Player Of The Week ... for the second consecutive week