Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Better Than The Rest, Not Better Than The Best ... Yet

Now that we're eight games into the season -- that's nearly a third of the schedule -- we can start drawing some conclusions about this Gannon team. This past week was a microcosm of the year-to-date as the Runnin' Knights outclassed Bowie State, 81-67, on Wednesday before being overwhelmed by relentless and talented East Stroudsburg, 88-81, Saturday afternoon.

Stroud is very good, and the Knights lost to them. Bowie is just okay, and the Knights handled them. Now 5-3 on the year, Gannon's three losses have been to ESU (now 7-3 overall, 5-0 in the PSAC East), Ohio Dominican (6-3, 2-2 GLIAC), and at West Chester (4-5, 3-2 PSAC). None of those losses are shameful, but none of the wins have been giant confidence-boosters. Lock Haven (5-4, 1-4 PSAC), Bloomsburg (3-5, 0-5 PSAC), Bowie (4-5, 1-0 CIAA), Cheyney (1-8, 1-4 PSAC), and Lake Erie (1-10, 1-3 GLIAC) ain't exactly murder's row.

Gannon isn't 2-6 like last year at this point (whew!), but they also haven't performed well enough to be considered among the elite in the Atlantic Region (nuts!). The best part of all this is that the Knights have shown potential to be really good.

Before running out of gas late in the second half against Stroud, they were stride-for-stride with a veteran club, one of top teams in the conference. I believe if the Knights and the Warriors meet again this year -- I'd love to see that in the PSAC finals -- GU would have a better shot at pulling out a win. They broke John Wooden's rule to "be quick but don't hurry" Saturday, pressing at times when they had already beaten the Stroud pressure, taking a quick, off-balance shot or driving into traffic to commit one of their 26 turnovers.

I'm not thrilled; I'm not disappointed. I'm definitely hopeful for better things to come. 

Other thoughts from this week in Gannon basketball:
  • Talking with a longtime Gannon fan before Saturday's contest, I said I see no problem with a college kid playing 40 minutes a game. Adam Blazek did it for four years, Jimmy Berger has essentially done that since he broke into the starting lineup, and kids have been playing for hours at a time since Dr. Naismith hung a peach basket. But the Stroud game was different because of their full-court pressure. In half-court games, everyone gets to jog down the court between possessions while the point guard walks the ball down the floor. But ESU's press resulted in no breathers, so physically it felt like a 60-minute game for the players.
  • John Reilly has been praised for being an excellent defensive coach, but give the guy credit for his offensive game plan adjustments this week. The Knights scored 81 points each game because of a motion-based offense (fewer predictable set plays) and thanks to a variety of press breakers that lit up Stroud for 50 points in the first half. I counted at least three different press breaker patterns that led to layups and kick out threes. 
  • In past years, Gannon fans have become accustomed to patient, half-court wrestling matches where teams struggled to attempt a field goal before the shot clock expired. But this week's games reminded me of Electric Football on the hardwood; in a word, frenetic.
  • I haven't talked about him much this season, but I really like Gannon's Damon Miraud. The guy guards every position -- quick ballhandlers, high-flying off-guards, flashy small forwards, and even muscular post men -- and defends them well. Miraud had a breakout offensive game vs. Bowie State with 19 points (on 8-for-11 shooting) and 9 rebounds. And the guy looks like a science experiment that mixed the DNA of former Knight Dave Wilson, a 6-foot-7, high-energy forward, and comedian/actor Jamie Foxx. I'm just sayin'.


  1. Knights have a BRUTAL schedule for the remainder of this year!!

    Bowie State tonight (3-4, but 3 losses to Top 15 Ranked teams as well as a 6 pt loss to Geo. Wash U)
    Saturday they host Strouds... not ranked, but always tough
    week off before they head to #12 Wheeling Jesuit on Dec 18th
    then they conclude Dec 30 on the road at #17 IUP.

    UGH! All I want for Christmas is... at least 2 wins?!

    1. Long gone are the days of 4 or 5 cupcakes in December.

  2. PSAC West is 15-21 against the East with an even split between home and road. That doesn't happen often.

  3. Really nice "W" against a pretty talented team. Fantastic ball movement (again), and, an inspired 2nd half. Dogan out of the box again with a solid performance, bench really contributing.

    Eyeballing Ian Gardener: Really supportive of his teammates, which is nice to observe. Long season, I think he'll be ready when called upon.

  4. Edinboro lost at Norte Dame (Oh.) last night, 102-86. The paragraph from the Edinboro game recap will never be written about a John Reilly team -- certainly never on Dec. 7.

    Edinboro continued to struggle on the defensive end, allowing 100-or-more points for the third time this year. The Fighting Scots allowed 53 points in the second half, and have now allowed 50-or-more points in a quarter six times.

  5. Yes ... This team has excellent ball movement. It's still early, but it may be the best since the 2008-09 squad. Last year's team averaged 12 assists per game; now we have one individual player getting 12 assists. It's fun to watch.

    The past few games have shown the same trajectory -- First quarter: Blow 'em out. Second quarter: Let 'em back in it. Third quarter: Retake control. Fourth quarter: Put 'em away.

    The offensive efficiency has been incredible. Yesterday, there was a point where Gannon was 28/47 from the field. It's more impressive when you note that at the time 7 of those misses were blocked shots. Those misses still count, but it was astounding that GU was 28/40 (70%) on shots that made it to the rim.

    As Corey said, the next three games will tell us a lot about the potential for this season. We could be 6-6 when the ball drops. Win 2/3 and we're an impressive 7-3. It will be interesting to see how our offense holds up against the slog 'n' clog PSAC West teams.

  6. Fairmont state moved from 11th to 4th after defeating #1 West Liberty, 86-81. WLU fell to 6th but extended its top 10 streak to 79 weeks. Saginaw Valley snatched the #1 spot and Wheeling Jesuit went from 12th to 10th. Kutz 16 IUP 17

  7. Too bad that one got away. It was an entertaining, frenetic game the entire way.

    Stroudsburg's relentless pressure wore us down. I'm not sure if it's a lack of a bench or the unwillingness to use the bench in the second half, but the Warriors slowly took control in the second half turning our 12-point lead into an 8-point deficit -- a 20 point swing. At the last media time out, Stroudsburg had nine players who played 11 or more minutes; we had just five (which is the minimum). I'd like to see Jones, Williams, and Haysbert get about 6 minutes more per game; it would do wonders for our energy for the stretch run.

    It's tough to shoot 55% and lose, but it's also impressive to have 26 turnovers and still be in the game at the end. Zay was lights out in the first half and Phoenix played well offensively. Dogan had another solid game as well. I worry about his playing too many minutes and getting overly banged up ... I think that he is completely healthy for the first time ... let's make sure he can stay that way all year and doesn't wear down.

    Two really tough road games coming up. 5-5 looks likely.

  8. Tough loss, but one of the first "good" losses Gannon has suffered in a while. Had a lead, lost it but stuck with them until the end. Sloppy, careless plays on offense is what ended up losing it. Down by 4 in the final minutes, get a defensive rebound and then travel. Down by 4, miss shot get offensive board and called for a charge. Down by 6 Strouds misses FT, Gannon throws ball out of bounds.many chances to get back in the game but shot themselves in the foot each time. Learning experience, but they know they can definitely hang with a high power team like that. I felt as if Gannon came in prepared for a shootout (playing Strouds style) rather than focused on shut down defense (Gannon style)... that concerns me because, if the case, and they try to match other teams they may fall flat several times. Stick to the intense defense first and shootout second.

    Hurst downs West Chester by 3
    #16 Kutz comesback to beat Seton Hill
    Boro beat cheyney by 4
    Mansfield trails at #17 IUP by 4 at half

  9. More turnovers than a good bakery !!!! I thought they had 50. Cant believe it was only 26. Scorer must not been able to keep track they were happening so often. 28 points off turnovers and a lot of them unforced.
    Turnovers aside, great effort against a very good team. Once these guys get the system a little better I think they can be VERY special. I really like watching these guys battle like hell.

    1. "Beer": Like the Who classic: " The Kids are All Right"....."stuff" like the 26 turnovers will be cleaned up.

      Losses sting. But... we'll bounce back.

  10. Call me nuts, but Damon Miraud reminds me a bit of Pierre Howard, Evan Phoenix has a bit of Kyle Goldcamp in his game and, Jimmy Berger has some Corey Knight in him.

    If this team gets better and better as the season progresses, like I believe, we all may witness a younger, less experienced version of the 2008-2009 Gannon team.

    1. ....I might as well keep going: Matt Dogan, in his own way, has had some "Tyler"-esque moments, and, Zay Jackson's pull up jumper is akin to Joe Lindsey's.


      From where I was standing, did "Stroud's" Head Coach telegraph a few of our plays?...shouting out to his defense what we were running?

      Their team impressed me. I have a feeling we may meet again.

    2. Berger reminds me of the kid from the movie Hoosiers (Chitwood?). Dogan is Dave Razzano with a jump shot. Phoenix is talented and impressive with his ambidextrous hook shots but I don't see Goldkamp in him. Jackson reminds me of Jay Fletcher and Isiah Prince from Edinboro.

    3. #453, I agree. As I said I believe once the kids get the system a little more they can be a very special team.

  11. Phoenix and goldcamp are no comparison in the slightest. Goldcamp went in hard and Phoenix acts like he's trying to avoid any contact whatsoever. I know he's been in foul trouble but this is beyond that... this is even early on with 0 fouls. He plays more like a power forward than a center.

    Berger still to me is more of a resemblance of blazek than knight he plays with a swagger that blazek did as well. Also an airtight defender like blazek.

    1. Remember, Phoenix is only a sophomore. Is he Kyle Goldcamp? No. He does have a move or two that reminds me of him, however.

      Very early going for this group. In time, the areas that need addressed will improve.


      Yup, attendance for Saturday's game might be one of the lowest ever. I'd like to see Saturday night games, but, it seems like those days are gone forever.
      Special shout out to the Erie Times-News for their first, smaller than a business card, action photo of the team this year.

  12. Second Saturday game in a row that Gannon's attendance figure was lower than Mercyhurst's. Not that long ago, that would have been considered very embarrassing.
    Wish that Reilly would learn to trust some of his other players in the second half. Maybe then they can break the pattern of running out of steam down the stretch. Even short breaks could very well work wonders for the team's ability to keep up.

    1. Agree ... It would have been especially useful to use a couple of bench players after building the second-half lead. A commentator used to call it a "working margin." So what if Stroud would have gone on a 10-4 run and trimmed the lead from 12 to 6? That's a much better outcome than having the starters exhausted for the stretch run.

  13. Golden, you are correct. The attendance has been really poor at every game so far this year. Even the GM tourney was weak. I'm hoping once this team starts to roll some may came back. Unfortunately, I don't see it ever coming close to the old days.

  14. #453: In response to your question, "did Stroud's Head Coach telegraph a few of our plays?...shouting out to his defense what we were running?"

    Yes, he was calling out the scheme for several of Gannon's baseline inbounds plays.

  15. Especially agree with Jim's bullets 2 and 3. I love the fact that this team is far more offensively gifted than teams in the past. The game plans seem better and the team is way more aggressive. The offensive execution is there ... this team has a very high field goal percentage, meaning that shot selection has been solid and they make the extra pass to turn a good attempt into a great attempt.

    1. MANY more layups than in previous years.

  16. Checked the Key Performance Indicators on the Atlantic Region message board ... it's the result of the formula used to do the regional rankings and issue NCAA bids:

    Gannon is 29th our of 43 teams. Probably fair given the record and the schedule to date. Other rankings of interest:

    Shippensburg is #1. Kutztown #4. East Stroudsburg is #8 (meaning that they're an NCAA bubble team). We'll have an immediate opportunity to move up by playing #2 Wheeling Jesuit on Sunday.

    IUP is the top PSAC West team at #10; Slippery Rock is #12. Mercyhurst is 19th and Edinboro is a woeful 36th. I think that we finished around there last year.

    Our three in-region wins have come at the expense of #31 Lock Haven, #33 Bloomsburg, and #41 Cheyney (to Jim's point that our wins aren't against murder's row). In-region losses have come to #8 Stroud and #17 West Chester.

    Lots of opportunities to improve upon our ranking, but it's fun to see where this team stacks up currently.

  17. It's also worth noting that Gannon's opponents' winning percentage to date is the second-lowest in the region (second to only Virginia State).

    That will change over the next couple of games with Wheeling Jesuit and IUP.

  18. Congrats to Jimmy Berger on his second straight freshman of the week award!