A fired-up GU squad executed that plan to near-perfection, slugging UPJ by 30, 66-36, in no doubt Gannon's best performance of the year. Leahey finished the game with just 5 points (2-of-5 from the field) in 22 minutes of action mainly because the Knights ran at him and bumped him every time he touched the ball on the perimeter. Even if Leahey dribbled around his onrushing defender, that was OK; he wasn't going to get any standstill looks.
Leahey wasn't the only Mountain Cat who was uncomfortable. Reilly had Adam Blazek (and later Marcus Jones) pick up the UPJ point guard full court to throw off the offensive rhythm. And when UPJ worked the ball around the perimeter, the Gannon defense scrambled to make sure no opponent could hold the ball without a Knight breathing on them. The result was just 6 points allowed in the first 11 minutes of play, a 41-21 halftime lead, and a despondent Pitt-Johnstown squad.
As great as the defense was, Gannon showed even more muscle on offense. In the first meeting, Gannon shot just 36% from the field -- missing jumper after jumper -- so Reilly cured that by shooting exclusively at close range for the first 15 minutes. A seemingly rejuvenated A'Darius Porter (8 points), Raphell Thomas-Edwards (8), and jumping jack Rich Austin (2) accounted for 18 of Gannon's first 25 points with nearly all of those scored 5 feet and in. UPJ was intimidated and frustrated by that point, so they began doubling the post man after he received the entry pass. Blazek then scored 11 of Gannon's next 13 points, three of his field goals from behind the arc, none of them touching the rim. The Knights shot so well in the in the first half (68%, 17-of-25 on field goals), I thought they might stay on the court during halftime to be inducted into the Gannon Athletics Hall Of Fame along with the 1989 men's soccer team.
Maybe the Hall Of Fame quip is overstating things a bit, but this isn't: If Gannon could maintain this level of play, they will not only win the PSAC and make the NCAAs, but they will have an opportunity for a deep postseason run.
* Due to some crazy finishes and unthinkable upsets, there was an incredible amount of upheaval among the teams with the best records in the Atlantic Region. In the next CoSIDA poll, the Knights are poised to jump into the top 6 I think. Here are the results from this week:
#1 West Liberty (22-2): W at Shepherd, W vs. Fairmont State
#2 IUP (20-5): L at #9 Mercyhurst, L OT at Edinboro (IUP tied the game on a desperation three at the end of regulation, but were outscored 9-7 in OT)
#3 Bowie State (19-7): L at Virginia Union (VUU is now 8-15 on the season), W vs. Chowan
#4T Glenville State (17-8): L at Urbana (75-42; talk about the wheels falling off!), L vs. Notre Dame Oh. (90-89, Notre Dame nearly blew a 17-point lead)
#4T Fairmont State (17-8): L vs. Wheeling Jesuit, L at West Liberty
#6T Charleston (16-9): L at Concord, L vs. UVa-Wise (77-75, more on this game below)
#6T Virginia State (17-6): L at Chowan, W vs. Elizabeth City State
#8 Slippery Rock (18-7): W at Edinboro, W vs. Seton Hill
#9 Mercyhurst (18-7): W vs. #2 IUP, W at Clarion
#10 Gannon (17-8): W at Clarion, W vs. Pitt-Johnstown
East Stroudsburg (16-8): L at Southern Connecticut State, W vs. Cheyney
Livingstone (14-9): L at Fayetteville State, L at Johnson C. Smith (108-106, Livingstone outscored JCS 65-59 in the second half; 5 players scored 17 points or more for JCS)
In likely the biggest upset of the day in all of college basketball, UVa-Wise shocked host Charleston, 77-75. Wise entered the game 1-22 overall and 0-18 in the Mountain East. When the two teams tangled less than a month ago, UC trampled Wise by 37, 85-48. Wise's only prior win this season came Nov. 14, so today's W snapped a three month long losing streak. And of course they had to win in dramatic fashion. Trailing by 3 with under a minute to play, Brian Sydnor produced a four-point play to give Wise a 71-70 advantage. With 5 seconds to play and leading by just 1, Wise turned the ball over but Charleston missed the ensuing layup and put the biggest of black eyes on its NCAA tournament resume.
* Believe it or not, the 0-2 week for the Livingstone men was a dream compared to what happened to that school's women's program. According to the Twitter feed of Winston-Salem Journal reporter John Dell, Livingstone used an ineligible player most of this season, so instead of being 22-0 they will forfeit nearly all their games, making their official record 4-18. Dell said the Livingstone compliance director has been fired and the athletic director has been placed on probation.