Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Just When You Thought Decent Defense Was Back ...

Because of my daughter’s music recital at Mercyhurst Saturday afternoon (my family considered it a road game), I missed watching the beginning of Gannon’s contest at Seton Hill. But then thanks to the wonders of technology and WiFi, I was able to watch the last three minutes of the first half while we shopped at the Whole Foods Co-Op, enjoying Gannon grabbing a commanding 36-19 halftime lead.

Then the roof caved in.

No – not, the Co-Op roof. You’d have seen that on the local news. The Gannon defense completely fell apart, allowing a mediocre Griffin team to score 52 points in the second half on their way to a 71-65 final margin. Thank goodness the Knights rallied past Pitt-Johnstown (twice) on Wednesday, 71-70, or else we would be choking on a three-game losing streak right now.

One of the details that was lost during Gannon’s eight-game win streak in January was that the Knights allowed nearly 83 ppg during the first seven games of that stretch, including 88 to now 8-14 Cal, 97 at UPJ, and 104 to PSAC West cellar-dweller Clarion who just moved to 5-17 on the year. As I looked at my phone among the wheat germ and aspartame-free cola at the Co-Op, I thought to myself and texted a friend that if the Gannon defense keeps clicking, the Knights could hit the 20-win mark and make noise in the postseason.

Even though Gannon allowed Pitt-Johnstown to shoot 48% from the field Wednesday, including 42% on threes, I thought their defense was much improved from earlier in the season. The first time the teams hooked up, senior A.J. Leahey scored at will, knocking down perimeter shots without a hand in his face. His monster stat line that game: 34 points, 10/15 FG, 7/10 3FG, 9/10 FT. But Wednesday Leahey was forced into 7-for-17 shooting because Gannon bodied him all over the court, forcing him to adjust his release point because of the defender who was chest-to-chest with him.

That’s part of what made Saturday’s collapse so frustrating. Just when you think this new unit – remember, Matt Dogan is the only returnee who gets significant playing time – has finally grasped John Reilly’s smothering man defense, they allow a team that a week ago scored just 32 points in a 35-point loss to Slippery Rock to get comfortable.

The silver lining is that despite losing 2-of-3, the Knights are allowing just 71 ppg during that stretch. We all hope they stymie Cal and Clarion this week, and I'm praying they do it with defense.

21 comments:

  1. Interesting seeing zay off bench. Definitely not a performance issue...

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  2. The (earned) return of Ian Gardener. Witness the quickness to the basket. UPJ really couldn't guard him. An added dimension as the stretch run continues.

    I loved Matt Dogan's key rebound and put-back late second half. A big key among a stretch of important plays.

    Perhaps the best team win (Joe Fustine!) of the year.

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  3. Some interesting comments (and several "alternative facts") about my Kevin Reynolds post from last week on the Atlantic Region message board:

    http://www.d2messageboard.com/showthread.php?84297-Slippery-Rock

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    1. I think they all make valid points. No matter how "unbiased" we may try to be - deep down we are still Gannon fans and are going to err on our side (or against SRU) and well as they are IUP fans and are going to err on their side (or for SRU being that it's against us haha).

      Maybe Reynolds gets more animated when he's playing Gannon (I've seen him vs. Mercyhurst a few times though and can say that he was the same vs. them)... maybe it's just Erie schools that brings it out of him!

      I do like how they take offense to IUP not having any kind of write up... what's there to say though? The game went exactly how I anticipated it would (well I didn't expect them to be down by nearly 20 in the first half... but the score and game itself ended the way I expected). Gannon got in a hole, dug their way about 3/4 out and couldn't dig any more. That's how many of our games against IUP (and a few in general) go! No need to elaborate more on that - not like IUP did anything spectacular.

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    2. I was out of the country while the IUP game was being played and couldn't watch it, so I didn't comment on a game everyone else saw. Plus I was so chagrined by Reynolds' antics I wanted to focus on that.

      I did find interesting the Slippery Rock fan's bogus claim that he'd criticize me here but I delete any criticism on this site. I invite him and anyone else to look at past posts to see that isn't true. What is true that I don't tolerate rude behavior or taking shots at kids.

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    3. Yeah I read that too. I figured it was probably someone that posted something offensive but didnt see it as offensive and couldn't believe you deleted it!

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    4. Speaking of taking shots at kids, and referenced earlier, how about Fustine and Gardener? Shows the heart these kids do have (at least while in season if not more) to come off the bench after having logged maybe 5 mins all season and being inserted into a role you haven't been in over a year and a close game with implications on the line!! And some of the shots fustine hit and plays he made!! Love it when a kid comes in and busts his hump game in and game out a d finally sees some physical reward for it!!

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  4. One of the IUP fans pointed out in another thread on the AR message board that Reynolds has received s technical foul in his last four appearances at IUP. He'll look to make it five in a row on Saturday!

    I don't think that the point of Jim's comments are whether or not Reynolds is a nice person off the court. I've heard several people say that he is, but that's not the issue ... a coach's on-court demeanor is a "window to the public" of the University. Constantly whining and throwing a fit about every call doesn't help the school's or athletic department's reputation.

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    1. Agreed, golden. On the court and off the court are two totally different things. I do like how they started a debate amongst themselves about a replacement for Lombardi haha most are opposed to the one person's comment that he thinks "Reynolds would be a fine replacement"!

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  5. The saga continues...get a big lead and give it all back. They have to learn how to finish games. Get the opponent down then KICK him.

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  6. Too bad yesterday. I watched the game at a baseball camp. That's what happens when you keep letting teams back in games -- it'll come back to bite you. The 14-7 record could easily be 10-10 if a few things don't go our way.

    Onto the stretch run.

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  7. Best case scenario, Gannon goes 5-0 down the stretch and takes a 19-7 record into the PSAC tourney. They come out of the tourney 21-8 after losing to IUP in the conference finals. Big improvement from last year but probably a hair short of getting a bid in this tough region. But lots of players eligible to return next year and build on this year's momentum.

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  8. Both Gannon and the Falcons struggle to hold big leads.

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  9. We've seen this pattern for years of the Knights having a sub-par second half, not just this team. Anyone have any theories as to why?

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  10. To many 39/40 minute games??

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    1. Agree. I know they are young kids in good shape but everybody needs a rest. This is the time of the year that legs start to burn out.

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  11. I think that it's fatigue and the fact that other coaches figure out how to attack the offense / defense.

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  12. who can tell me what exactly this ECAC is (in terms of what exactly it does for Gannon)?

    For instance, Berger has been named PSAC Freshman of the week, I believe, 4x and was just named ECAC Freshmen of the Week for the fourth time. Does one mean more than the other?!

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  13. The PSAC has decided to name the Freshman of he Week the Jimmy Berger Award and give it to the second-best freshman during the week.

    ECAC (East College Athletic Conference) is a larger group of schools, beyond the PSAC. There is (or used to be) an ECAC post-season tournament that functioned as kind of an NIT for ECAC members who didn't make the NCAA tournament. The ECAC site shows 24 affiliates (Gannon is not listed as one of them, but Mercyhurst is), but it appears that the site was last updated in 2013 or 2014.

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  14. ahhh gotcha. so, going by that, getting an ECAC award would actually be tougher since there are more schools/players than in just the PSAC? correct? Not saying ECAC is more prestigious, just harder to get.

    I kind of figured it was similar to NIT, in a sense. I just wasn't sure if it was a completely separate entity for D2 or just for basketball, etc. I'm reading more about it now. Making a little more sense.

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