Friday, December 31, 2010

Gannon Men's Basketball Team Puts Defensive Clamps on Wayne State (Mich.) to Capture 37th Annual Porreco Cup Championship

ERIE, Pa. - The Gannon men’s basketball team used arguably its best team defense of the young season to extend its winning streak to three games Thursday night at the Hammermill Center. The Golden Knights held a red-hot Wayne State (Mich.) team to almost 30 points below its scoring average en route to a 61-52 victory in the 37th annual Porreco Cup championship game.

It was just like the good old days of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) basketball. The two former conference rivals, who faced each other in three consecutive GLIAC quarterfinals from 2003-05, fought tooth and nail throughout Thursday’s championship tilt. And the contest quickly turned into a defensive dog fight as the majority of GLIAC contests are. The game featured nine lead changes and six ties. In addition, the majority of the contest was played with a lead within two possessions.

Gannon seemed to start pulling away midway through the second half. Trailing 31-29, the Golden Knights ripped off a nine straight points. Tanner Furno (Columbus, Ohio/Whetstone) tied the game with an offensive put-back. On the next possession, Stephen Battle (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) might have hit the shot of the game. The true freshman snapped the tie by draining a three-pointer from the top of the arc as the shot clock expired. He was 1-of-3 from three-point range in the first six games of the season.

Travis Brannen (Elmira, N.Y./Elmira Free Academy) and Danard Crouch (Syracuse, N.Y./Anthony Henninger) added consecutive baskets for a 38-31 lead with 12:27 to play.

Wayne State momentarily stopped the bleeding with a free throw, before Gannon added four more points on a pair of Crouch free throws and another Furno lay-up. In all, the Golden Knights had produced a 13-1 run over the span of three minutes and 51 seconds. The result was Gannon’s largest lead of the evening at 42-32 with 10:38 remaining.

Wayne State was far from dead though. The Warriors immediately followed with nine consecutive points to pull within 42-41 on Dale Brundidge’s lay-up at the 5:25 mark. The visitors climbed back into the game by holding Gannon scoreless for five minutes and 38 seconds.

Gannon, as it did in the semifinals against Seton Hill, then found the reserve tank and won the final five minutes of regulation. Leading 44-43, the Golden Knights regained the upper hand with a Kelvin Agee (Niagara Falls, N.Y./Niagara Falls) three-pointer and Kareem Brown (New London, Conn./New London) tip-in for a 49-43 advantage at the 2:17 mark.

Wayne State pulled within three points twice in the final minutes, but Gannon hit 6-of-7 free throws to preserve the victory.

The beginning had an inauspicious start for Gannon. Wayne State opened a 7-0 lead as the Golden Knights failed to score in the first four minutes and 38 seconds. Gannon rallied to tie the score at 13 and neither team was able to grab a lead larger than two points the rest of the first half.

Furno led Gannon in scoring with 12 points and five rebounds off the bench, hitting 5-of-6 shots. Battle was the only other Golden Knight in double digits with 10 points. Seven different Golden Knights scored between six and 12 points in the balanced effort.

Gannon shot 42.9 percent (21-49) from the field, 28.6 percent (4-14) from three-point range and 75 percent (15-20) from the free throw line.

Bryan Smothers headlined the Wayne State offensive unit with 14 points despite a 4-of-17 shooting chart. Bryan Coleman and Ian Larkin added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Wayne State shot 35.1 percent (20-57) from the floor, 30 percent (6-20) from behind the arc and 66.7 percent (6-9) from the charity stripe.

Gannon improved to 5-2 with its third consecutive victory and remained perfect (5-0) at the Hammermill Center. Wayne State is now 9-2 after seeing its seven-game win streak snapped. The Warriors’ only other loss came at Bellarmine, the top-ranked team in NCAA Division II.

Head coach John T. Reilly’s club will have three days off before heading into Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) crossover action. The Golden Knights host Millersville Monday, January 3. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

In the consolation game, Chris Giles poured in 31 points as Seton Hill defeated East Stroudsburg 98-93. The Griffins shot 59.6 percent (34-57) from the field and 71.4 percent (10-14) from three-point range.

Giles was named Porreco Cup Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive season. The junior recorded 53 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals and one block during the two-day event. He shot 60.6 percent (20-33) from the floor and 85.7 percent (12-14) from the free throw line. In the process, he scored his 1,000th career point during the second half of the consolation game. He became the first visiting player to win back-to-back MOP awards in the 37-year history of the tournament. Overall, he is the fourth player in Porreco Cup history to win back-to-back awards and the first since Zaid Al-Khas performed the feat in 1998 and 1999.

Brannen and Agee represented Gannon on the all-tournament team. Coleman and Ike Udanoh from Wayne State rounded out the squad.

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