The Gannon University men’s basketball team gave fans a treat at the Porreco Pride of Erie game Wednesday as the Knights beat host Mercyhurst in a 78-73 overtime thriller.
The win – the Knights’ seventh in a row and their fifth overtime victory this season – coupled with Saturday’s 81-76 defeat of Mansfield, extended Gannon’s record to 12-5 overall and 10-3 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
The Knights will look to stretch their winning streak to eight in a 7:30 p.m. matchup Wednesday against Slippery Rock in the Hammermill Center.
Gannon’s overtime victory over rival Mercyhurst at the Mercyhurst Athletic Center snapped its program record for overtime games in a season.
The 1987-88, 2011-12 and 2014-15 teams held the previous record at four. The Knights are four behind the NCAA Division II record of nine held by Angelo State (Texas) and Barton (N.C.). Currently they are tied with Dixie State (Ga.) for the most in Division II this season.
In the Pride of Erie game, the Knights and Lakers kept the score even in the first five minutes of play. However, Gannon turned up the heat with 13 consecutive points to change its one-point deficit into a 23-11 advantage.
With eight minutes, 46 seconds left junior Zay Jackson let loose and collected five straight points during the run. Following Jackson was sophomore Evan Phoenix, named the Porreco Pride of Erie Game Changer, who laid in two buckets under the hoop.
Phoenix, who is new to the team this year along with everyone except four returners, said he really enjoys being at Gannon and playing for the Knights. He added that winning the award felt even sweeter being that it was against Mercyhurst.
“I feel honored to win this award because it was against a rival and most importantly we won,” said Phoenix, who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“I’m glad I was honored with it but I am more focused on each game coming up.”
At halftime, the Knights were up with their biggest lead of the evening, 37-27. Phoenix opened the second half with a basket to extend the lead to 39-27. After some back and forth, Mercyhurst began to come back, using a 13-3 run to pull even with Gannon at 45-45.
Phoenix scored a layup and junior Damon Miraud hit a nice three-pointer to put Gannon up by five and baskets by Miraud, Matthew Dogan and Jackson gave Gannon what looked like a comfortable lead.
But Mercyhurst’s Lorenzo Collier saw opportunity between a couple Gannon misses, and he drained three triples to tie the game at 67-67 and send it into overtime.
Gannon held its biggest OT lead at 74-68, but the Lakers rallied back once again before a basket by Phoenix and Jimmy Berger’s two free throws sealedthe 78-73 victory.
Jackson contributed 20 points in the win while Dogan added 16 and Miraud finished with 11.
Jackson had another strong showing in Saturday’s road win over Mansfield as he tied his season-high in points with 29 and three-pointers with six.
Phoenix again came ready to play, getting his fourth double-double of the season as he finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Dogan contributed 16 points and Berger added eight assists and only two turnovers.
The Knights led the Mounties by three at half at 35-32 and lost the lead as Mansfield hit two baskets for a 36-35 lead.
However, Gannon battled back and Dogan drilled a three to give the Knights their largest lead of the game with the score at 65-55.
Mansfield chipped back yet again to a score of 72-69 but free throws helped Gannon again as the Knights went seven-for-eight with Jackson hitting a perfect six. With 10 seconds left, both teams sunk a couple of layups but the Knights came out on top.
On Wednesday, Gannon looks to tie the program’s record for most games won consecutively, which is currently held by the 2015 team during a stretch that ran from Feb. 11 to March 8.
The Knights also will be home Saturday against Indiana University of Pennsylvania in a 3 p.m. matchup at the Hammermill Center and will entertain Pitt-Johnstown at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1.