Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Earning What You Get, Getting What You Earn

After starting the season just 5-5 (3-3 in the PSAC), Gannon finished this week celebrating its seventh consecutive win after road victories Wednesday at Mercyhurst, 78-73 in overtime, and Saturday at Mansfield, 81-76.

In the postgame radio interview after his Knights held off the Mounties, John Reilly was asked about Zay Jackson's performance which featured a career-high tying 29 points on 9-for-9 shooting from the foul line and a 6-of-10 chart on three-pointers. "He deserves to make those shots," Reilly said. "He puts in extra time at the gym on his own, so he deserves it."

Isn't that essentially the theme of this year's team? Nothing has occurred by happenstance; everything has been hard-earned. Five overtime games in a six-game span was certainly coincidental, but winning all of them wasn't a byproduct of luck. This team outrebounds, outhustles, and outguts its opponents for 40 minutes -- 50 if necessary. Even the little-used bench players (which is pretty much everyone outside Gannon's starting five) exhibit more enthusiasm than their opponents.

Why is Matthew Dogan having a breakout season? Over three-plus years he's worked and willed his way to being a better player. Why is soon-to-be PSAC West Freshman of the Year Jimmy Berger playing with wisdom beyond his years and now emerging as a scoring threat? Because he's a gym rat and he's open to guidance from his teammates and coaches. And why is Damon Miraud, who I think is closer to 6-foot-3 than the 6-foot-5 he's listed at, within a couple boards of being the leading rebounder in the PSAC? He just wants it more. One possession late at Mercyhurst, Miraud looked like he climbed a stepladder to snare a rebound above a crowd of much taller players.

With the three other top-four PSAC West teams -- Slippery Rock, #10 Indiana (Pa.), and Pitt-Johnstown -- being Gannon's next three opponents, I'm prepared for the winning streak to come to an end. But I'll bet my last dollar this team won't be outworked, and whoever walks away from the Hammermill victorious these next three games, they'll have earned it.


  1. I haven't written in the space in a long time. But I must say, while my love for Gannon basketball never died, the interest I had in the program in the last few years has faded.

    Since the 2008-09 PSAC title and Elite Eight run, I seemed to have lost interest. From players leaving to a mediocre product on the court -- sure there were some good seasons (PSAC title in 2013-14) -- the passion I had for Gannon basketball was sailing away. Then there was last season (7-19) … and whatever interest I had in the program seemed to have drifted far, far away into the darkness of Lake Erie.

    But as always, from bad seasons to great seasons, I still follow the Golden Knights. I attended my first game of the season on Saturday (110-104 2OT win) and immediately my interest and expectations for this team skyrocketed.

    For one, this team doesn't seem to give up, and a lot of you already know that. This team seems to never be out of a game. And one reason for that: They score.

    This team is not your average John T. Reilly defensive-minded team. Through 15 games, Gannon has scored 80 points or more at the end of regulation in eight games. Going over the 100-point mark twice thanks to overtime games. But this team, unlike of those years past, doesn't have to rely on holding opponents to 54 points and hope they score 55 to win.

    This team is in it because they can score -- and play defense, don't get me wrong. I haven't been this excited for a Gannon game in a long time. And I am actually happy it's at the MAC. Wins there seem just a little sweeter, don't they?

    It seems like I wasn't the only one who had lost interest in the team in the past few years based off of declining attendance numbers. But based off of recent some recent numbers, it seems like a few fans are coming back.

    Go Knights!

    1. Nice to have you back, Faithful. I agree with your observations about this year's team being different. But if the Knights lose tonight by a score like 52-45, we'll know who to blame for jinxing them. :)

  2. In case you're shrugging your shoulders about 7-8/5-7 PSAC Mansfield, Gannon's opponent Saturday, keep this in mind. Mansfield beat Duquesne in an exhibition game at the start of the season. Since then, Duquesne beat Pitt who beat nationally-ranked Virginia who beat top 10 Louisville who beat top 10 Duke.

  3. Does that mean we should expect to see four overtimes in the game?

  4. I don't think that I've ever been so confident in a team just lost a big lead to have its opponent force overtime. Our guys had them right where they wanted them!

    Mansfield should also pose a threat because they are in the much stronger PSAC East. The overtime games have been incredibly entertaining, but you can't keep playing with fire allowing teams to stay in games after fast starts -- need to put some teams away. On the other hand, there have been close game all around the PSAC West (see Edinboro almost winning at IUP the other day).

    My conclusion at this time is that the PSAC West is very weak -- anyone can beat anyone. And this makes all our close wins so important. Getting the 1 or 2 seed will be huge with a bye and a home game (and maybe hosting the semifinals & finals).

    It's also great having a team in which all five guys on the floor are threats to score. A team that's aggressive on offense is very fun to watch. Winning the close ones can turn a season from good to very good or very good to great.

  5. Key Performance Indicators out as of Thursday's games:

    Top 8: Fairmont, SHip, WJU, West Liberty, Kutztown, IUP, ND (OH), Virginia Union. All rankings are out of 43 teams.

    Gannon is up to 12th, its highest ranking so far. The #5 ranked PSAC team (Stroudsburg is #4 -- Stroud hasn't played very well since beating us, or they are just in the tougher PSAC East)

    Tomorrow's opponent, Mansfield, is ranked 26th. Mercyhurst is 28th, and Edinboro rose to 37th. Our schedule strength is ranked 34th, second-lowest in the PSAC (S Hill is 40). Again, this could pose a prose a problem ... we have to keep winning because our schedule isn't doing us any favors.

  6. I wrote in my last post that during John Reilly's tenure we haven't been ashamed by his or his players' behavior. Check out the fiasco from LeMoyne Owen/Lane where an ugly brawl broke out. The game had to be postponed.

    1. And Ron Artest wasn't even there. That's some scary stuff.

    2. Interestingly enough, I watched Ron Artest and "Malice at the Palace" during a Gannon road trip. The Knights were playing in a tournament at Shepherd (WV), and after eating dinner with the Gannon coaching staff, my radio broadcast partner Jim LeCorchick and I checked into our hotel room. We turn on the TV, flip it to the game, and about 10 seconds later the hard foul that sparked the Pacers/Pistons incident occurred.

      I recall watching in horror and saying out loud a bunch of times "Oh my gosh!" and "Someone's going to get killed!" LeCorchick, true to form, watched calmly and after things finally settled down just said, "Wow."

      Gannon was routed earlier that night by run-and-gun Pfeiffer (NC), but the more interesting game was Shepherd/Assumption. Assumption was super-talented and I believe led by 20+ points at halftime, but they took a ton of quick bad shots and let the Rams back in the game. I was seated at the press table next to the AC bench, so I could hear their coach scream at them during a timeout, "What the hell are we doing?!" Panic ensued and Shepherd won the game.

      Gannon beat Assumption next night, helping AC start the season 0-8 and leading to the head coach losing his job. Quite a basketball weekend.

    3. Can't wait for the return matchup scheduled for February 11. Should be interesting. By the way, Lemoyne-Owen's nickname is the Magicians ... yet another cool Division II nickname!

    4. 15 players suspended. Not enough left to brawl.

    5. 1. Check this version out

      2. 15 players?! But teams should be done for the season. That was ridiculous!

      3. How did no one see the guy with the chair???

      4. PA Announcer "please do not come of the court. Please refrain from coming on the floor. Please show some sportsmanship" - this comes nearly 1:30 after every one was already on the court.

  7. Three surprising results from the PSAC West today.
    * Edinboro won at Slippery Rock, 70-59
    * Seton Hill won at UPJ, 73-68
    * Mercyhurst was throttled at Cal, 69-52

    Laker Durrell McDonald, who was super-hyped transferring in from DePaul, shot just 6-for-24 from the field for the week (2-for-11 vs. Gannon, 4-for-13 at Cal). Erie basketball fans might recall McDonald's father Darryl who played in Erie as an opponent of the Erie Wave of the World Basketball League back in the early 90s. Darryl McDonald played for the Las Vegas Silver Streaks and Nashville Stars.

  8. Edinboro winning a game is a surprise. I'm sure I jinxed it and they'll beat Gannon next time around, but they have been the most dreadful team I've seen in a while.

  9. East notes - ship only beat cheyney by 10 and lock haven beat west Chester.

  10. Nice wins last week. Big ones loom ahead! Glad to have meaningful basketball at the Hammermill!