The Gannon University men’s basketball team saw its nine-game win streak come to a close Wednesday in a 72-61 road loss to Slippery Rock.
However, the Knights did not let the defeat disturb them as they rebounded to claim a double-digit victory over Pitt-Johnstown, 72-62, in Saturday’s Athletics Hall of Fame doubleheader at the Hammermill Center.
The split left Gannon with a 14-6 overall record and a 10-4 mark in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play heading into Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup against Seton Hill in Greensburg.
The Knights shot an impressive 54 percent from the field en route to Saturday’s win over Pitt-Johnstown. Gannon had to overcome an 11-point first-half deficit to gain the win, which was the sixth in a row over the Mountain Cats.
The opening eight minutes were a struggle for both teams until Pitt-Johnstown pulled away with an 11-2 run. Gannon countered with a 10-2 blitz led by senior Damon Miraud, and that left the score 29-26 in favor of the Mountain Cats.
The rest of the opening half remained tight, and Pitt-Johnstown held a 37-36 advantage at intermission.
Gannon came out hot in the second half as senior Jair Green sank a mid-range jumper followed by a three from Zay Jackson that put the Knights on top by six.
Pitt-Johnstown pulled to within three at 55-53, but Gannon scored seven consecutive points, giving the Knights a 62-53 buffer that held for the remainder of the game.
Evan Phoenix led the Knights in scoring with 19 points and achieved his eighth double-double by adding 12 rebounds. Miraud and Jackson had 12 and 10 points, respectively, for Gannon, which has won nine straight at home.
During halftime, 2018 inductees to the Gannon Athletics Hall of Fame were honored. Among them were golf standout Drew Deimel ’12, women’s basketball great Cheryl Taplin ’87 and football standout Charbel Latouf ’96.
Other inductees were Dag Magnusson (soccer ’97), Lyneil Mitchell (wrestling ’03, ’05 M, ’07 DPT), Josh Morgan (basketball ’04), women’s lacrosse coach Jim Nestor and Tara Skasik Quinn (water polo ’05). Chuck Pora was inducted as the 2018 Distinguished Service Award recipient.
In Wednesday’s streak-breaking loss on the road to Slippery Rock, the host team demonstrated its impressive interior strength, using offensive rebounds to gain the edge on the Knights.
The Rock outrebounded the Knights, 46-36, with 19 offensive boards that created 28 second-chance points.
From the tipoff, both teams played tough defense, but Slippery Rock began pulling away a bit, building a 16-9 lead with 13 minutes, 4 seconds remaining.
Gannon pulled within two at 17-15, but Slippery Rock slowly built its lead back up and The Rock owned a 33-25 edge at halftime.
Slippery Rock maintained its lead in the second half, although the Knights did cut it to six at 44-38 with 14:42 to play on Jackson’s layup.
But The Rock extended that margin to 10 at 59-49 with 8:12 to play, and Gannon never got closer the rest of the way.
Jackson led all scorers with 23 points and Phoenix finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Gannon shot 38.7 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from the arc and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line. Gannon was also able to hold Slippery Rock 12.9 points below its scoring average of 84.9 points.
Gannon coach John Reilly responded to the loss by saying, “Slippery Rock just played better than us that night. They are a good team, but so are we.”
Following Wednesday’s road matchup at Seton Hill, Gannon will travel to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for a 7:30 p.m. matchup Saturday.
The Knights’ next home game will come at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against California University of Pennsylvania in the Hammermill Center.