Saturday, February 21, 2015

Clutch Austin Wills Knights To PSAC West Title

Like pretty much every other PSAC game this season, Gannon was pushed to the limit Saturday at California (Pa.). And, just like pretty much every other PSAC game this season, the Knights figured out a way to win, securing a 59-57 overtime victory, earning gutty GU the West division championship.

Reserve forward Rich Austin was thrust into the spotlight with senior starter A'Darius Porter missing the trip due to illness. Austin, getting just his second start of the campaign, probably made himself sick with his offensive play. The normally reliable post man -- he entered the game shooting 60% from the field -- was just 1-for-8 on the evening and actually hadn't put the ball through the hoop because his one score came on a goaltending call. But like he's done all season, Austin's energy gave Gannon a lift when the team needed it. With the score tied at 57 and the shot clock off in overtime, Adam Blazek missed a shot but Austin snared his first offensive rebound of the contest. Austin was fouled on his putback with 5 seconds left and went to the line with an opportunity to give Gannon the division championship. Austin hit both, Cal missed on its final attempt, and now we can all salivate that the Hammermill may host the PSAC tournament in two weeks.

We haven't talked a ton about Austin this season -- the other four seniors get lots of attention, and deservedly so -- but you have to hand it to a kid who hasn't sulked despite fluctuating playing time. Austin never takes a play off and no matter how long he sits on the bench, he always comes in ready to play. Maybe that's because he's loose from frequently cheering on his teammates from the sidelines. Former Gannon coach Bob Dukiet used to preach that "sooner or later" your opportunity will arrive, and Austin seized his moment in the clutch tonight.

I'm sure Austin felt the pressure on him for those free throws, but there was more riding on those shots than he imagined. Gannon, #4 in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Region, kept pace with #3 Indiana (2-0 this week), #5 Mercyhurst (2-0 this week) and #7 Bowie State (guess what their record was this week? Yep, 2-0). If Gannon lost to the Vulcans, the Knights might have dropped all the way to #7 in the region, likely needing to advance to the PSAC finals to earn a tournament spot.

With the win, Gannon could move up to #3 because #2 Fairmont State lost earlier this week to #10 Concord. Fairmont is now 18-9 in the region while Gannon is a game better at 19-8. Here are the results from around the region as of the date and time listed below:

UPDATED 2/23/15 at 9:15 PM. Current regional records are listed [in bold] at the far right.

#1 West Liberty (22-2): W at WV Wesleyan, W vs. #8 Glenville State [24-2]
#2 Fairmont State (17-8): L vs. #10 Concord, W vs. UVa-Wise (98-54!) [18-9]
#3 Indiana Pa. (20-5): W vs. #6 Slippery Rock, W at UPJ [22-5]
#4 Gannon (17-8): W at Le Moyne, W at California [19-8]
#5 Mercyhurst (18-7): W at UPJ, W at Seton Hill [20-7]
#6 Slippery Rock (18-7): L at #3 IUP, L at Clarion [18-9]
#7 Bowie State (19-7): W at Virginia State, W at Elizabeth City State [21-7]
#8 Glenville State (17-8): L vs. Wheeling Jesuit, L at #1 West Liberty [17-10]
#9 Charleston (16-9): W at Urbana [17-9]
#10 Concord (16-8): W at #2 Fairmont State, W at Shepherd [18-8]
Virginia State (17-6): L vs. #7 Bowie State, W at Lincoln [18-7]
Winston-Salem (15-8): W vs. Johnson C. Smith, L at Livingstone [16-9] 
Wheeling Jesuit (15-8): W at Bluefield State, W at #8 Glenville, W vs. WV Wesleyan [18-8]
East Stroudsburg (16-8): W at West Chester, W at Mansfield [18-8]
Livingstone (14-9): W vs. St. Augustine's, W vs. Winston-Salem State [16-9]

P.S. As the accompanying graphic shows, today John Reilly became the winningest coach in Gannon history with 180. Good things happen to good people!

9 comments:

  1. In the name of overanalysis, Gannon did not have class on Thursday or Friday. I assume that the facilities were open and the team had practice. Will this have any effect on the team? Maybe not going to class for two straight days will make the team feel like big-time D-I players. :-) OK ... just kidding.

    Drive safely, anyone heading down to Cal. Not a fun day to be out on the roads.

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  2. HUGE win for Lady Knights, 69-63 in OT. Blake 18pts/11 reb, Hendricks 16/4 and Bats with 9pts/4 reb/5 assists. Win puts GU just one game out of first, with a season sweep over Cal, being swept by IUP and a split w/ Boro. Tough win by a team that has grown in toughness as the season has progressed.
    Let's go, Knights! Go for the sweep!

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  3. Great OT performances as well. Lady Knights pull out a must-win against Cal and the men gut one out without A'Darius Porter.

    Brings up a question -- When was the last time both the men & women played OT games on the same day? And when was the last time that both teams WON an OT game on the same day?

    And congrats to Coach Reilly for becoming the winningest coach in GU history! The game was fitting of his Gannon tenure ... a tough, defensive struggle in which his team gets enough stops to pull out in the end.

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  4. Looking ahead ... in the PSAC quarters next Tuesday, Gannon could face conference playoff nemesis Slippery Rock. SRU has secured the #4 seed and will host Edinboro, UPJ, or Cal in the first round.

    Mercyhurst has the #2 seed and a bye while #3 IUP will need to win its first round game (vs. the Boro, UPJ, or Cal), then win at the Hurst to make the PSAC Final Four.

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  5. Congrats to Coach Reilly. He certainly has worked his tail off to achieve the most wins of any coach in Gannon history. A deserving accomplishment!

    I like his recent shout-out to longtime assistant Coach Viscuso as well. Together, they have both created teams that out-tough their opponents game in and game out. Their system certainly doesn't produce the "eye candy" that a lot of Audi faithful(???) crave, but, it is indeed effective.

    Nobody knows what the next few weeks will bring to this team. I certainly feel that they are a bit better than last seasons fine team that won an NCAA game. I feel there is a bit more depth, coupled with an extra year of experience. Time will tell.

    Hopefully, there will be a nice crowd for Senior night. These seniors are deserving of a special ovation. And, they know that they still have a lot of basketball to be played.

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  6. Slippery Rock was held scoreless over the last 3:13 of the game and lost at Clarion today, 72-70. That happened despite SRU winning the rebounding battle 46-31 including 24 offensive boards. SRU was #6 in the regional rankings and could drop out of the top 10 with an 0-2 week.

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    1. Jim....I've heard of several player defections at SRU.

      Hat's off to Clarion. They will be in the mix of things next season.

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    2. Comparing the Slippery Rock/Clarion box score with their season statistics, missing from the lineup were #2 scorer Kelvin Goodwin (12.7 ppg) and #4 scorer and #1 rebounder Cornelius Brown (8.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg). They each played 22 games, Goodwin starting all of them and Brown starting 19, but have not seen the floor in the month of February. I came across a few stories saying they did not play due to "a coach's decision."

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  7. My prediction for Wednesday's Top 10 regional rankings. There's very little science behind this:

    #1 West Liberty [24-2]
    #2 Indiana Pa. [22-5]
    #3 Gannon [19-8]
    #4 Mercyhurst [20-7]
    #5 Fairmont State [18-9]
    #6 Bowie State [21-7]
    #7 Charleston [17-9]
    #8 Concord [18-8]
    Dropped out: #6 Slippery Rock [18-9], #8 Glenville State [17-10]

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