What we got instead was a near perfection by the Knights, who out-everythinged Slippery Rock on the way to a 71-45 thrashing. The stat that jumped out at halftime was Gannon's 7-for-7 shooting chart on three-pointers. But it wasn't just hot shooting by Girbran Smith and Adam Blazek that keyed the win.
I noted that when Slippery Rock began making substitutions, the Knights led just 8-5. Over the next several possessions -- until exasperated SRU head coach Kevin Reynolds called time out -- GU outscored the Rock 12-5 with the opponents notching just one field goal. With two starters gone, the first subs for Slippery Rock were essentially their 8th and 9th players, a terrible spot for a school with just 5 scholarships from what I understand.
Slippery Rock had a chance to make a move in the final 4:33 of the first half when Adam Blazek picked up his second personal and joined foul-plagued Smith, A'Darius Porter, Rich Austin, and Matthew Dogan on the bench. At that juncture Gannon was up 34-18 and I wasn't the only Catholic in the building praying for the reserves to keep the margin in the teens.
Why was I fretting? The best Gannon player on the floor was Raphell Thomas-Edwards -- a guy essentially playing with one hand. The second best player was Jean Yves-Toupane who averages less than 6 ppg. Joining them were little-used Tony Boykins (1.5 ppg) and freshmen Daniel Kaigler (2.1 ppg) and Adam Holm-Weber (0.5 ppg), all seeing their first Division II playoff action. Instead of squandering the lead, that crew expanded it, closing the half with a 10-4 run to produce a 44-22 margin at the break.
The Knights sealed the contest when they emerged from the lockerroom a focused group. On offense they worked the clock and the boards, then gave up just three points in the first five minutes of play. They allowed on 12 points over the next 10 minutes of action, causing the Slippery Rock students to head for the exits.
I'm sure the Knights will be focused (and excited) to host the PSAC tournament this weekend, starting off with Kutztown Saturday. The Golden Bears, seeded third in the East, surprised #2 West Chester on the road tonight, 90-79, in overtime. I'm not into predictions, but I'll wager that Kutztown scores fewer than 90 against our Knights this weekend. Kutztown boasts some outstanding athletes including super-quick Cal transfer Tynell Fortune, super sophomore Josh Johnson, and hard-to-guard senior Tyler Brooks.
Sheesh! Gannon posts one of its most impressive performances in playoff history, and I'm already looking ahead? I'm sure John Reilly is doing the same thing. They didn't hand out a trophy after tonight's game -- just an opportunity. Let's hope the Knights make this a special weekend.
For the PSAC Tournament Central web site, click here.
For Gannon's web headquarters for the PSAC Final Four, click here.
Regional Rankings / Upcoming Schedules
UPDATED 3/6/15 at 8:45 PM. Rankings reflect in-region records as of Sunday, 3/1/15, and rankings that were announced 3/4/15.
#1 West Liberty [25-2]: W vs. Shepherd (MEC quarters), Sat. vs. #10 Glenville State (MEC semis)
#2 Indiana Pa. [24-5]: W at #4 Mercyhurst (PSAC quarters), Sat. vs. East Stroudsburg (PSAC semis)
#3 Gannon [20-8]: W vs. #7 Slippery Rock (PSAC quarters), Sat. vs. Kutztown (PSAC semis)
#4 Mercyhurst [20-7]: L vs. #2 Indiana (PSAC quarters)
#5 Bowie State [21-7]: No games scheduled
#6 Fairmont State [19-9]: W vs. Notre Dame (MEC quarters), Sat. vs. Wheeling Jesuit (MEC semis)
#7 Slippery Rock [18-9]: L at Gannon (PSAC quarters)
#8 Concord [20-7]: L vs. Wheeling Jesuit (MEC quarters)
#9 Charleston [17-9]: W vs. WV State, L vs. #10 Glenville State (MEC quarters)
#10 Glenville State [18-10]: W vs. UVa-Wise (MEC first round), W vs. #9 Charleston (MEC quarters), Sat. vs. #1 West Liberty (MEC semis)
Wheeling Jesuit [19-9]: W vs. Urbana (MEC first round), W vs. #8 Concord (MEC quarters), Sat. vs. #6 Fairmont State (MEC semis)
East Stroudsburg [19-8]: W vs. Millersville (PSAC quarters), Sat. vs. #2 Indiana (PSAC semis)
[CIAA AUTO BID] Livingstone [19-9]: No games scheduled
There are a couple of very interesting matchups in the Mountain East quarters with #10 Glenville facing #9 Charleston and #8 Concord tangling with red hot Wheeling Jesuit (#10 last week) on Friday. Those could very well be play-in games for the 8-team Atlantic Region NCAA tournament.
Locks (4): West Liberty, Indiana, Gannon, Livingstone
Likely In (2): Mercyhurst, Bowie State
Fighting For The Final Two Spots: Fairmont State,
Hoping For Mercy From The Committee: Slippery Rock, Concord, Charleston