GU men drop first two games

The Gannon University men’s basketball team walked out of Glenville State University’s new Waco Center Saturday night knowing it had left a few points on the floor to a very good team for the second night in a row.

Gannon traveled to West Virginia last weekend along with fellow PSAC member Slippery Rock to battle host Glenville State and 2013-14 MEC champion University of Charleston on consecutive nights in the PSAC/MEC challenge.

Friday’s matchup opened the new Waco Center, and the home team got off to a fast start, posting a 40-18 halftime lead.

Gannon clawed back in the second half, riding a stout defense and allowing only 17 second-half points, before ultimately falling short in the last minute in a 57-51 loss.

The Knights outrebounded Glenville 43-26, but 23 turnovers proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome.

Senior guard Girbran Smith opened the regular season strong with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes, while Raphell Thomas-Edwards paced the frontcourt with nine points and eight rebounds.

The Knights returned to face off Saturday against MEC defending champion University of Charleston, which was looking for revenge after suffering a first-round loss in the NCAA tournament to Gannon last season.

Gannon fell behind early again, trailing 32-22 at half thanks to Charleston’s blistering 68.8 percent shooting, but roared back in the second half, only to lose at the buzzer, 54-52, after Adam Blazek’s desperation shot fell short.

After allowing 17 second-half points the previous night, the Golden Knights gave up a measly 22 points for the last 20 minutes to Charleston, including holding the Golden Eagles scoreless for seven minutes and 10 seconds of game time.

The second late-game comeback in as many nights was highlighted by a 13-0 run led by Blazek, who had seven of the 13 and was a thorn in Charleston’s side defensively all night.

The senior frontcourt duo of Thomas-Edwards and A’Darius Porter led the charge in the paint with a combined nine offensive rebounds, with Porter adding 12 points and Thomas Edwards supplying 10.

Junior guard Cory Bailey thought the difference for the weekend was intensity.

“We didn’t come out ready to fight and it showed,” Bailey said. “We dug ourselves a hole that was too deep to get out of both games.

“The seniors and captains have to step up in leadership to show how hard we have to work to get better.”

Smith thought that the chemistry within the team is getting better and that players are beginning to understand their roles.

“We fell behind, but refused to give up,” he said. “Guys have been in and out with injuries but we are starting to get into the swing of things with each other.”

The Knights have to rebound quickly, as conference play opens up Wednesday with rival Slippery Rock (2-0) coming to the Hammermill Center for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff in the PSAC opener for both teams.

Gannon will make its PSAC road debut at 3 p.m. Saturday against crosstown rival Mercyhurst.

MAX SENG

[email protected]