The Gannon men’s basketball team held No. 5 Indiana (Pa.) without a field goal for the final 6:34 and knocked the Crimson Hawks from the unbeaten ranks with a 67-61 overtime victory Wednesday night in the Golden Knights’ return to the Hammermill Center for the first time in 28 days.
Head coach John T. Reilly became the second men’s basketball coach in school history to reach 150 victories with Wednesday’s decision. The ninth-year mentor sits 29 wins behind Jerry Slocum’s (1996-05) school record of 179. He owns a 382-238 career record in 21 seasons at Brescia (Ky.) and Gannon.
The decision ended IUP’s best start since the Crimson Hawks’ opened the 1994-95 campaign with 21 straight victories. PSAC champions three times during the last four seasons, IUP had won 17 consecutive games dating back to last season when leading at halftime until failing to hold onto a 25-22 halftime lead against Gannon.
Wednesday’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division battle was a fist fight between two of the best defensive teams in the country. Indiana (Pa.), ranked fifth in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Top 25 Poll and one of seven undefeated teams in NCAA Division II, entered the game with the nation’s top scoring defense at 56.6 points per game. Gannon ranked fourth nationally, allowing 60.5 points per game. So, it was no surprise when both teams struggled to get out of the 50’s during regulation time.
The second half featured 10 ties and nine lead changes. Indiana (Pa.) forged ahead on four different occasions during the final 3:43 only to see Gannon respond every time. Trailing 52-51, A’Darius Porter (Stockbridge, Ga./Woodland) hit two free throws to give the Golden Knights a one-point lead with 2:53 remaining.
IUP quickly answered with a Mathis Keita three-pointer to assume a 55-53 edge, but Gannon punched back to tie the contest on Girbran Smith‘s (Nassau, Bahamas/Seton Academy) two free throws at the 1:48 mark.
The squads continued to exchange punches as Jeremy Jeffers’ lay-up during IUP’s next possession gave the Crimson Hawks the lead again with 1:34 left. The visitors forced a missed shot, but then turned the ball back over to Gannon who followed with a game-tying jumper from Adam Blazek (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep) with 40 seconds to play. IUP got two shots off during the final five seconds, but could not convert to force the second overtime contest in the all-time series.
The overtime session was no different than the second half. IUP grabbed a two-point lead twice during the opening 2:13 only to see Gannon respond both times. With the Crimson Hawks leading 61-59, Blazek might have hit the shot of the game with a triple from the top of the arc. The long-range bomb gave the Golden Knights a 62-61 lead with 2:31 remaining in overtime. The home squad would never trail again.
A Raphell Thomas-Edwards‘ (Leicester, England/The Gateway School) lay-up gave Gannon a three-point lead at the 1:48 mark, before the Golden Knights closed out the victory with three free throws in the final 26 seconds.
Gannon beat IUP at its own game, holding the Crimson Hawks without a field goal for the entire overtime period and for the final 6:34 overall. The Golden Knights didn’t allow IUP to score during the final 2:34 of overtime.
The home squad was off and running from the opening tip, racing out to a 10-0 lead. IUP didn’t score its first point until 6:54 into the contest. The Crimson Hawks went 0-of-7 from the field, missed two free throws and turned the ball over four times during that time span.
Gannon held its largest lead of the evening at 16-5 midway through the first half, but IUP closed out the opening 20 minutes with eight straight points. A Keita three-pointer that bounced around the rim and fell at the buzzer gave the Crimson Hawks a three-point lead at the break.
Smith set a new career-high for the third consecutive game. The junior led Gannon with 18 points while playing 44 of the 45 minutes. He has flourished since being inserted into the starting line-up three games ago, scoring 43 points during that stretch after having six points during the first 13 contests.
Porter narrowly missed his third double-double with 14 points and eight rebounds, going 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line. Blazek had a full statistical line with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. The junior produced 10 points, five rebounds and three assists during the second half and overtime.
Thomas-Edwards completed the foursome of double-digit scorers with 11 points and six rebounds. C.J. Oldham (Solon, Ohio/Solon) scored seven points and had seven assists with zero turnovers in 42 minutes.
Gannon shot 47.1 percent (24-51) from the field, 33.3 percent (5-15) from three-point range and 82.4 percent (14-17) from the free throw line. The Golden Knights out-rebounded their 16th consecutive opponent with a 34-29 advantage on the glass.
Keita led all scorers with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Crimson Hawks. Marcel Souberbielle added 16 points.
IUP shot 37.3 percent (19-51) from the floor, 27.6 percent (8-29) from behind the arc and 78.9 percent (15-19) from the charity stripe.
Gannon improved to 9-7 overall and 4-2 in the PSAC Western Division with its third consecutive victory overall and second straight against IUP. The Crimson Hawks dropped to 14-1 overall and 4-1 in divisional play. The Golden Knights return to action Saturday, January 18 at Edinboro. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m.