Gannon-Edinboro among elite

Two years ago at this time, the Gannon University women’s basketball team was riding high, undefeated and holding the No. 2 ranking in the country when a young Edinboro University battled the Knights to a tough 80-72 game.

Fast forward two years later, and it’s the upstart Knights who have a chance to knock off the undefeated No. 2 team — Edinboro.

Wednesday’s game between the second-ranked Scots and No. 18 Knights has all the makings for an instant classic after Edinboro wore down Gannon 72-62 in the first meeting.

“I think it’s good for our area to have such competitive teams,” Edinboro coach Stan Swank said.

While the prospect of featuring the PSAC’s past two champions could draw a standing room only crowd, the thought of a fantasy scenario in which this year’s Edinboro squad faces off against Gannon’s 2009-2010 team be able sell out Madison Square Garden.

The 2009-10 Knights won 37 consecutive games to begin the season, before falling to Emporia State University, 97-94 in overtime of the national semifinals.

Edinboro, which enters Wednesday’s game with a 20-0 overall record and 16-0 mark in the PSAC, looks to duplicate the success of those Knights, as the Scots have won all seven of their games by at least 20 points since beating Gannon on Jan. 11.

Besides the overwhelming wins, the statistical similarities are eerie.

While Gannon’s Final Four team scored 79.4 points and allowed 59.4 points per game, Edinboro carries averages of 77.3 and 53.7. Edinboro also uses a balanced scoring attack in which three players average double-figures just like the 2009-2010 Knights.

However, the likeness ends there, as the Scots’ up-tempo, pressing style greatly differs from the half-court approach Gannon continues to employ.

“I would say they’re similar teams in terms of record, but they definitely have a different style of play,” said senior forward Becky Innes, who was a part of Gannon’s Final Four run. “They‘re a very fast team that likes to play in transition, whereas we were always trying to set up our offense in the half court.”

Edinboro’s swarming full-court press has spelled defeat for many teams this season.

“(The press) does a lot of things for us from a lot of standpoints,” said Swank, whose 1996-97 team reached the Elite Eight. “The kids really enjoy it but you have to have certain players to use it. They have to be very athletic, have quickness, speed and a lot of energy to pull it off.”

However, the Scots appear to have a tall task in dispatching this year’s version of the Knights, who appear to be firing on all cylinders. The Knights rocked 17th-ranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania Wednesday night to the tune of a 71-40 drubbing.

But if the upset-minded Knights are to hand Edinboro its first blemish on the season, they will have to beat the Scots’ stifling full-court pressure.

Assistant coach Tiffany Crocker knows all too well about the importance of ball security, as she starred as the point guard on Gannon’s 2009-2010 team.

“I think we need to be strong with the ball, we need to zip our passes we need to come to our passes,” said Crocker, who led the country with a 3-1 assist to turnover ratio her senior year. “Everyone needs to want the ball. Don’t play into what they want which is for us to catch it toward the baseline, sideline so they can trap us better.”

Gannon has enjoyed a nearly seamless rebuilding process since the core from two years ago moved on. The members of the Knights’ current youth movement have managed to pick up where their predecessors left off.

“In some ways we’re similar, but where we had mostly seniors that year, we have mostly freshmen and sophomores,” Innes said. “I definitely think there’s a lot of talent on the team, maybe even close to what we had on that team, but they’re so much younger and a lot of experience to be gained.”

But while more dream matchups may await the teams for years to come, both coaches agree Wednesday’s game is the most important in the minds of their players.

“What really matters is how this team matches up against them,” Gannon coach Cleve Wright said. and after the game Wednesday the other will just be a moot point,”


[email protected]