Friday, November 25, 2016

Knights (And Author) Come Away Empty At Gary Miller Classic

I always say during and after Gannon's home-opening weekend that it's great to be back at the Hammermill Center, but this weekend had less excitement than years past. It wasn't just because Gannon lost the championship game to feisty Ohio Dominican, 66-56, after rallying past Lake Erie (Oh.) College Friday night, 83-77. I had a feeling of emptiness this weekend for a variety of reasons:
  • The late Jim LeCorchick was a big part of my Gannon basketball experience for the past 30+ years, starting with his "Knights On The Line" call-in radio program during the 1980s and extending into a longtime friendship. He was one of the people I shook hands with before every Gannon home game, and we would often keep a running dialogue during timeouts. No matter the circumstances, Jimmy made the games more enjoyable. He was certainly missed this weekend.
  • Last year's 7-19 season still stings. My wife didn't attend Friday's nail-biter against Lake Erie but she followed the live stats, and when the Knights were trailing the Storm late, she texted me, "You pulling your hair out?" I wasn't because even though Lake Erie entered the game winless, I half-expected Gannon to lose since I got so used to defeats last year. You know the saying, "Been down so low, don't know which way is up"? That's me right now. It will take a Gannon win streak of several games for me to fully rebound from last season's catastrophe. 
  • It wasn't so long ago that drawing 1,240 fans to the Audi would have been described as a disappointing crowd for Gannon. But the Knights attracted that many people this weekend -- for both games combined. The official box scores listed an attendance of 614 for Friday and 626 for Saturday. Gannon's "6th Man" was a real factor that boosted the program into the upper echelon of small college basketball. Now "6 Men" regrettably represents 1% of the total attendance for a game. 
  • What also has me feeling empty is our country's rise in hate crimes these past few weeks against minorities. Furthermore, many Americans are denying or ignoring the root cause what has emboldened these white nationalists which makes the problem even worse. What does this have to do with Gannon basketball? Until I walked-on to the Gannon team in 1988, I had little to no contact with African-Americans and non-Americans. My four years on the team showed me that all men are equal (though most were taller than me), and for us to quietly tolerate inequality is unconscionable. If my statements make you uncomfortable and if you're thinking of telling me to "stick to basketball," blame my coaches, priests, and mentors at Gannon who taught me it's our duty to speak out against social injustice. And blame Bobby Kennedy, too.
Let's see if some basketball analysis can lift our collective spirits.

Why Gannon Beat Lake Erie: Bottom line, Gannon had more talent than the Storm. That might seem like on obvious statement, but it's not one we could make after most games last season. This club is quicker, more aggressive, more athletic, and more offensively skilled than last year's team. Newcomers Zay Jackson and Gerrell Williams are threats in transition and shooting jumpers, while big man Evan Phoenix has great hands and a nifty half-hook.

Lake Erie stayed in the game only because of hot three-point shooting in the first half (10-of-14 3FG). But when John Reilly adjusted his half court man defense to help less on dribble penetration, and thus discourage kick-out passes that had led to open threes, the Storm's game plan was nullified and it was only a matter of time before Gannon ran away with this one.

Why Gannon Lost To Ohio Dominican: One of the first lessons I learned from Tom Chapman my freshman year at Gannon was that well-coached teams take away your first option on offense, and the extremely prepared teams take away your first and your second options. Consider ODU one of those highly prepared teams. I sat near their bench, and coach Dan Evans and his assistants knew almost all of Gannon's half court and inbounds plays, calling out instructions to their players before Gannon executed its set.

Personnelwise, ODU neutralized Phoenix in the post through a combination double teams and the long arms of tournament MVP Hasan Varence. They also chased three-point threat Jackson all night, harassing him into a 1-of-8 shooting chart, and forcing the Knights to rely on a third option. In the first half, that was senior Matt Dogan who burned the nets with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, but he played limited minutes in the second half, never seeing action after being subbed out at the 12:29 mark despite being GU's leading scorer at that point. No third option on offense meant no Gary Miller Classic title.

Based on the history of the PSAC, the Knights appear to have the ability to post a winning season and even battle for one of the top spots in the conference. To achieve that, they need to add at least a couple new offensive schemes to keep opponents off balance while at the same time developing a reliable third option on offense. The defense is pretty close I think. They frustrated Ohio Dominican during a 26-point first half and held the Panthers 22 points below their season average for the game. Limiting dribble penetration by the primary ballhandler plagued Gannon both games, but the D was strong in many other aspects.

42 comments:

  1. Special shout out to the Erie Times-News for their fantastic, in depth, well researched, 4 paragraph profile on this weekends Gary Miller Classic.



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    1. Yes, but the paper WILL have the score in its Monday edition at the latest. If we're lucky there will be a partial box score too. The Erie Times Newsletter looks more like the North East Breeze every day.

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    2. A paragraph each for Ohio Dominican, Malone and Lake Erie is more than enough...

      I hate their new format though. So plain and boring.

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  2. Tonight will be interesting to see a John Reilly defense against a team that averages 88 ppg. Buckle up!

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  3. Changing the subject from ripping on the paper to praising our team ... Nice win last night. It was nice to see a basketball game that had some offensive flow to it. It's promising to see a Gannon team that can put points on the board, while still giving 100% on defense and getting stops when it matters.

    One of the cooler moments of the game was when GU took over possession up 73-70 with about 1:40 to go. With 23 seconds still left on the shot clock, Zay Jackson drained a wide open 23-footer to put the game away. Some past GU squads would have played tentative basketball for 27 seconds and forced up a shot with three seconds left on the shot clock. It was nice to see a team that continued to be aggressive on offense. Here's hoping that this team that can score shows up game after game in 2016-17.

    Should be a good test tonight ... We see a second straight GLIAC team in Ohio Dominican, though I think that they are much better than LEC. Their big man was saddled with foul trouble and played only 20 minutes; if he plays 30-35 minutes, they will be tough to handle.

    And LEC will get their first win against Malone, unless the Storm shoots threes to the tune of 5/27 like they did in a home loss to Edinboro.

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  4. Just looking at the Ohio Dominican roster....4 Jrs 5 Sophs and 7 Frosh NO Srs.

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  5. Well golden... pending a huge second half.. lec will remain defeated and aren't shooting that poorly from 3pt range... shooting horribly from the field in general... Malone up 20 at half.

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  6. Boy was I wrong. LEC looked every bit like a winless team tonight. We'll see how that bodes for us in a few minutes.

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  7. For the second year in a row Gannon scored in the 50s and lost to a GLIAC team in a hard to watch GMC championship game. Sad.

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    1. I didn't think it was that hard to watch... especially compared to last season. Also have to consider they kept ODU to just 66 pts compared to their 88 avg. One off night in first four games definitely not something to get in a tizzy about. If it persists them diff story, but I don't see that happening. We'll see.

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    2. With all due respect, when Gannon shoots 34% from the field and scores 56 points, that's hard to watch.

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    3. Yeah but that's Gannon. If they won it 56-54 it was a hard to watch championship in which their d prevailed. I didn't think it was anywhere near as hard as years past and was more impressed with the d then the lack of O.

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  8. Was it my imagination or did Phoenix look disinterested in the second half?

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    1. I don't think that it's fair to say he was disinterested. It looked like he was worn down by Varence. It looks like he ran out of gas in the final minutes as ODU sealed the game.

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    2. I agree with golden that disinterested is a bit rough but he did look off. Have to consider he did only average a few mins a game last year and is now being asked to bump and bang for 27+ mins a game. Big change, plus play intense defense. May still be adjusting. Also with foul trouble he sits for longer periods of time and then had to shake it off and come back in... early in season still.

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    3. Yeah your right...disinterested was probably the wrong word. Maybe frustrated, with fouls, tired etc.

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  9. Both of our this season have come against winless teams.

    Given this fact, it's difficult to see where this team stands. Today's low-scoring loss was surely not encouraging. The crossover weekend at home should shed some light of where 2016-17 is heading.

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  10. Agree, Golden. Two, low scoring losses at home this coming weekend would be a very bad sign for the rest of the season. Our only two wins are over winless teams.
    As far as the GM Classic is concerned, it was anything but a classic. Four very average teams playing a two day tournament is all it was. Not much entertainment. Sad what it has become.

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  11. Hey there Jim,
    Usually, I just sit back and read through your thoughts and other's on this blog. But I just wanted to send some warm thanks for the job you do with the video and commentary at the games. There are some people down south viewing the games this year, watching for a few minutes of our "big guy." Being able to view the games- we're still yelling and cheering - just at the computer screen this year.
    I can tell you love this job and your great devotion to the Gannon University programs and alumni. I wish could have heard you and Jim together as in previous years, but I'm sure he's up there keeping an eye on you, and cracking a smile as you work your way through the games -maybe he had something to do with the score throughout video? :) Have a good evening.


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    1. I appreciate the kind words about the blog -- thank you very much. I hope you will be able to visit friendly Erie in the near future.

      One clarification: I can't take credit for the commentary at the games. I'm not sure who announces the game for the video feed, but I'm glad to hear they are passionate about our Knights!

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  12. Daemen is handed their first loss of the season at the hands of the Lakers up on the hill.
    Before this 61-70 loss Daemens schedule was
    Exhibition @Siena L 65-92
    Exhibition @Buffalo L 82-87
    Caldwell Univ W 75-64
    Dominican College W 60-49
    St. Eds Univ W 74-64
    @Edinboro Univ W 90-79
    @Slippery Rock W 69-57

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  13. Other misc scores
    West Chester downs future Gannon opponent Bowie St on a late jumper, 94-92

    On Friday, UPJ crushes Philly Coll of Sciences by 21 while IUP uses a late come back to knock off Alderson Broaddus, 75-70.
    On Saturday, the 2 teams switched opponents and UPJ beat AB by 15 and IUP waxed PCOS by 26.
    IUP ranks 15th in the nation while UPJ is 5-2 with a pair of 6 point losses vs. Urbana (neutral) and at Strouds.

    Strouds is 3-3 with narrow losses to Shepherd and Chestnut Hill and a pounding by future Gannon opponent Wheeing Jesuit. Their wins include 87-74 at Concordia, an absolute shellacking of Clarion and the aforementioned win vs. UPJ

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  14. Thanks for the insightful thoughts, Jim. Proud to be a small part of this blog. Peace.

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  15. For year's I've been longing for a Gannon / West Liberty contest to see how a Jim Crutchfield offense would match up against a John Reilly defense. Sadly, these two teams have never played each other.

    Saturday's WLU / Lemoyne game in Wheeling was the closest we've gotten as Lemoyne has three John Reilly recruits (CJ A-Byrd, Isaiah Eisendorf and Daniel Kaigler). And the Dolphins did not disappoint in the first half, holding the Hilltoppers to a 27-27 tie at the break. WLU pulled away in the second half, winning 76-53. Still, the 76 points is 31 below West Liberty's season average.

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  16. Is anyone else in agreement that the volume level at the Hammermill Center on the music/announcements is horribly loud? That volume worked when there are 2,000 bodies in the seats to absorb sound. Now the 600 folks are surrounded by concrete and steel, which don't absorb sound as well. To make matters worse, when the Knights return to the court after halftime, the Bon Jovi song gets blared even louder. I'm just living on a prayer that I don't need to visit the audiologist after the season.

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    1. I thought the same thing. I play in a rock band so I'm not a prude about cranking up the volume but this borders on painful. Also impossible to carry on a conversation.

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    2. Yeah it's been bad past 4 or so years. I don't know what the issue is, but doesn't seem like it should be hard to fix.

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    3. If anyone reading this blog has the power to turn that volume down, our eardrums would much appreciate it

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  17. Why is so difficult to have a pep band at the games? Or, in depth pre and post tournament coverage in our newspaper? Is it asking too much for a few photographs in the paper as well?

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    Two quick early fouls (and one called 30 feet from the basket) prevented Evan Phoenix from getting into any kind of flow Saturday night. I think more actual game experience will help him as the season progresses.



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    1. Huh? Evan Phoenix didn't pick up his second foul till 7:27 left in the first half and played the same number of minutes (29) on Saturday that he did on Friday (29), a game in which he played very well.

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    2. You are correct. It seems as if that initial foul in 2nd half (maybe that is the one I remember) is the one that seemed to upset the flow of his game.

      He will be fine.

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  18. Well GU does not have a music department and certainly does not promote the games to students. To have a pep
    Band you either need to pay professionals or have students who are organized or care enough about the sport. GU has neither.

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    1. I don't think its asking too much to have a pep band at the games......like they used to in many years past.

      Hey, most likely deep seated trends are in play that have caused a general decline fans and students at games that a pep band wouldn't matter anyway.

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  19. GU doesn't promote any sport...period. Not to students or general public. When was the last time you heard or seen an AD in print, radio or TV. Like me never that I can recall.

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  20. Jim - can you get any kind of status with Naseem Hadrab and Gannon's magic man, appearing out of nowhere and essentially disappearing out of nowhere, Jair Green?

    Redshirts? With Jair, I was wondering if he may not even be eligible until the next semester begins because of his transfer situation. Seen a few guys behind the bench... appear to be Hadrab and Green, but also was a third guy as well.

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  21. I believe they are redshirting. I walked past them as they sat behind the bench before Saturday's game. Gannon doesn't typically announce redshirts because the player's status can change at any time of course. If I hear anything official I'll let you know. Thanks for asking.

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  22. Big night for Kevin Kuteyi Wednesday.

    MURFREESBORO- The Chowan University men's basketball team picked up a 92-77 win over the Apprentice School on Wednesday evening. The Hawks move to 4-1 on the season with the victory while the Builders slide to 1-6 on the season with the setback. Kevin Kuteyi led the effort for the Hawks with 29 points in the victory.

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    1. He was 10/16 from the field including 4/8 on threes with just 2 turnovers. In the first 4 Chowan games he scored exactly 14 points each game.

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    2. Yeah...but did he play defense? bahahahaha

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    3. they won 92-77... so sounds like not many do lol

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    4. A noteworthy score... Cheyney played at Bowie State and lost 85-99. I'm not 100% sure but I believe that is cheyneys closest game yet

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