Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"We Made A Lot Of Winning Plays"

Those were the words of Gannon coach John Reilly Saturday after his team finished a perfect week on the road -- no small feat in February. The Knights held off California (Pa.) Wednesday, 74-67, and then thumped Clarion, 80-60, Saturday night.

We've been repeatedly tormented this year by the Knights racing out to a double-digit lead only to see it vanish faster than you can say "Yoav Kadman." But Saturday with Gannon leading in the second half, they blew the game wide open with some of those aforementioned "winning plays." I wrote these notes describing three consecutive plays as the Knights extended the lead to 20:
  • Big man Evan Phoenix hit a free throw then raced down court to take a charge as Clarion tried to score in transition.
  • When the Golden Eagles tried trapping Gannon on the ensuing possession, point guard Jimmy Berger was caught under pressure near the mid-court stripe. Instead of panicking, he held the ball over his head and zinged a two-handed pass to a cutting Matthew Dogan along the left baseline for a layup.
  • After the Knights swung the ball side-to-side repeatedly, Dogan caught a crosscourt pass on the left wing. He ballfaked a three, causing an opponent to sail into the Gannon bench. After a dribble he faked again, moving another Clarion player out of position, and then led Phoenix to the basket with a nifty bounce pass to the left block.
If someone from Clarion had shut off the lights and raised the hoops at Waldo Tippin Gymnasium right then, I wouldn't have blamed them. The Golden Eagles took Gannon to double overtime less than a month ago in Erie, but Saturday it was clear which team is more improved. In that first matchup, a 107-104 Gannon win, Clarion was comfortable, hitting 18-of-32 threes on their way to a 55% overall shooting chart from the field. Saturday Gannon extended its defense two steps beyond the three-point line and often didn't allow penetration within 15 feet of the basket until the shot clock wound down. The result was CU shooting just 8-of-25 on threes and 20-of-47 overall, a measly 42%. Clarion had nailed 7 threes in the 10 minutes of overtime at the Hammermill but could only muster one more than that in 40 minutes in their own gym in the rematch.

It's clear the Knights are stepping up their aggressiveness in every aspect of the game. I've described already what they did on offense and defense, but look at these rebounding numbers. Gannon outrebounded its opponents this week by an incredible 78-41 margin (42-24 vs Cal, 36-17 vs. Clarion).

Add to that the steady play of Zay Jackson (6-for-10 on threes for the week) and the continued development of Damon Miraud (8-for-10 from the field with 17 rebounds this week), and Gannon's "Ironman 5" is making believers out of even the most skeptical fans.

Let's hope they keep making "winning plays" down the stretch.

30 comments:

  1. I sure hope that I'm wrong, but I don't have a wonderful feeling about tonight ... Cal is playing much better than since their awful start (won three out of four and six straight at home) and Gannon seems to be coming back down to earth a bit after the incredible run of close wins.

    Letting teams back into games and winning in the last possession or two isn't a recipe for sustained success. Certainly hoping for a win, but I'm not super-confident.

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    1. i'll second that. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst...

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  2. Good win over a decent Cal team that is tough to beat on their home floor.

    I was going to say that I've never seen a team win despite getting outscored by 13 on points off turnovers (as Gannon was) until I checked the box score of the Edinboro women's surprising home loss to Seton Hill and saw that the Lady Scots outscored the Griffins by 17 off TO's. Crazy night.

    If Cal would have been able to pull out the victory, I think that the announcers would have submitted reserve forward Eric Green for induction into the basketball hall of fame. In their minds, the six minutes he played may have been the best in the history of basketball.

    IUP also clinched the top seed in the West with four games to go.

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  3. In Coach Reilly's Coach Interview Tuesday, he said sometimes he wishes they'd be down at halftime because it seems to keep the players playing harder (whereas when they have a lead, players relax and give up the lead). After watching last night, I would probably agree. That was a really good 2nd half!

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  4. So we should encourage all fans going to Clarion on Saturday to cheer like crazy for the Golden Eagles during the first half. :-)

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  5. Or tell Gannon fans to not cheer first half haha

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    1. sorry, Golden, I misread your post... yes, all fans should cheer for Clarion first half!

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  6. So, I was thinking about this... we've seen a number of player's careers go down the drain over the span of their time at Gannon. This is not a knock against anyone, it happens everywhere.

    Looking at the opposite end of that spectrum, though, have we ever seen someone flourish in their final year - as Matthew Dogan has this year? I cannot think of any player off the top of my head or even going through the all-time Gannon roster. Anyone think of someone?

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    1. Well, I scored 10 points my senior year after scoring just 4 my first three years. :)

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    2. Besides Jim's legendary run, Joe Blank's final several games (not a season) come to mind, including his 45 point final game in......(1974?).

      Indeed a special season for Matt Dogan!

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    3. I dunno if id include him because he had injury issues when he started and got going end of his first season. So, to me, id say similar but not exactly the same as dogan.

      Jim takes the cake thus far ;)

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  7. Crazy night in the MEC on Thursday in which Wheeling Jesuit lost to lowly Virginia-Wise and Concord stunned West Liberty, 107-104, avenging a 125-73 loss earlier this year.

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  8. Was there no video or stats available? Not worked at all for me and I did a search in the site and the only thing for Gannon was the previous GU-Hurst game.

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  9. Both games are being streamed on the net.

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    1. I didn't notice it was a 530/730 doubleheader. I was on at 4 looking for it

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  10. I agree but at least you can see what is happening.

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  11. Live stats are terrible. Stream seems like it's 10 or so minutes behind.

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  12. Finally finished off a game. Lets keep that goin'. Nice win !!

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  13. Yeah I ended up just listening to it because the video paused every 10 seconds (and was at least 3-4 mins behind in general) and the stats only were appearing one line at a time and were a good minute or so behind.

    Appears it was a solid performance start to finish, which is a relief to say with the way most leads have vanished this season. Clarions "foul-a-Phoenix" (reference hack-a-Shaq) didn't help them at all. Wonder when they realized that it should have been "maul-a-miraud".

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  14. Good to see a Gannon win despite having a big halftime lead.

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  15. A+ ball movement last evening took care of business. Essentially, the entire team pitched a complete game.

    One observes the team in full bore last night and thinks "Hmmm....a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors, and, a magical senior. Stretch run is upon us and continues....

    Lone figure up in the stands, silently observing: Rock Coach Reynolds. He looked out of his element a bit: not screaming hysterically.

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  16. Reynolds should be looking good chance we get the Rock again first playoff game.

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  17. KPI's are out as of Saturday. For the first time, Gannon has risen to the top 10 in the region, passing East Stroudsburg.

    Top 10: Fairmont, Ship, West Lib, IUP, Kutztown, WJU, Virginia Union, Virginia State, Shepherd, Gannon.

    GU is definitely a bubble team and the CIAA and MEC certainly bear watching. The final three games are all must-wins to keep bubble hopes alive. It looks like there is a decent-size gap between 8 and 9, though.

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  18. Agreed. If Gannon loses one (or more) of the last 3 games, they essentially will have to run the table in the PSAC playoffs to get a spot in the top 8. Even if they made it to the PSAC Championship, I'm not sure that would be enough to get a spot as you'd have to figure the Top 6 teams are almost locks to get in - just a matter of where they rank. Also, if an non-top 10 CIAA or MEC team were to win their conference, Gannon's only chance would then be via the conference championship.

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  19. I'm pretty sure the mindset of the players and coaches is that the playoffs started about a week ago, and, every game going forward is considered a playoff game.

    I like the emergence of Ian Gardener as a key contributor off the bench. Several times already, the recent Clarion game included, he has blown by his defender for a quick, easy basket. He is adding some nice defensive pressure as well.

    Come to think of it, entire bench play will be key for the rest of the games this season.

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    1. In my opinion, you nailed it 453! Bench is the BIG key! Not for purposes of giving starters a break, but more for a sub coming in and not creating a big hole in the game. The subs have been great, but inconsistently. And I'm not knocking anyone - just a general thing. Some have came in and gave a solid 10 mins here and there and sometimes they come in and you immediately notice a difference as the opposing offense seems to click better.

      I think the way the coaches have been using the subs lately, however, are gearing them up for the home stretch.

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  20. Congrats to Jimmy Berger and Evan Phoenix for BOTH sweeping the weekly awards last week!

    Berger - ECAC & PSAC Frosh of the Week
    Phoenix - ECAC & PSAC Player of the Week

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