The Gannon University men’s basketball team got back to its winning ways down the stretch of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) play by collecting three consecutive victories.
The Knights capped the mini-streak by knocking off the PSAC West leader Indiana (Pa.) Monday night, 75-66, as they built a 20-point second-half lead and then held off the Crimson Hawks’ late rally.
Monday’s win followed a 74-63 victory over California University of Pennsylvania on Feb. 7 and a thrilling 72-71 triumph over Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Saturday — a win that came on Zay Jackson’s three free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining.
The win over California (Pa.) clinched Gannon’s fifth PSAC Tournament berth in the last six years.
The Knights improved to 17-8 overall and 13-6 in PSAC play heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. road meeting with crosstown rival Mercyhurst.
In the win over Indiana (Pa.), the Knights came out of the locker room hot on their way to an 18-6 lead eight minutes into the game.
Six straight points from IUP after a timeout stopped the bleeding for the rest of the first half.
A back-and-forth final 10 minutes of the first half saw the Knights take a 32-26 lead into halftime.
Gannon again came out smoking at the start of the second half, putting together a 20-4 run in a little over 4 ½ minutes. Jair Green ignited the run with back-to-back threes, Evan Phoenix quickly scored the next six and Damon Miraud added an and-one.
Just as the game appeared to be getting out of hand, IUP senior Anthony Glover Jr. produced an 11-2 run of his own, igniting a 16-2 overall run that brought the Hawks back within 54-48 midway through the second half.
Gannon responded with layups by Green and Miraud to take back the double-digit lead.
IUP would eventually cut the lead to three at 69-66 before a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch sealed the game for the Knights.
Green led the scoring attack with 21 points, one shy of his career-high. Phoenix added 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds for the Knights, who shot 50 percent from the floor in the win.
Clutch shooting was the story of the week as Gannon shot 57.1 percent in the win over Cal U.
Gannon built a five-point halftime lead and turned it into a 17-point margin at 64-47 with 7 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the game.
Phoenix helped lead Gannon to a 48-28 scoring edge in the paint and the Knights outrebounded their opponent for the 21st time in 23 games this season.
Jackson led the way in scoring for the 12th time this season with 18 points, adding three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
In Saturday’s win over Edinboro, Gannon used strong defense to help build a 15-point lead with 15:22 to play. But Edinboro slowly chipped away, eventually tying the game at 59-59 after scoring eight consecutive points.
Down the stretch, with the game tied at 67-67 and 1:18 left to play, Edinboro went up by a pair, but Gerrell Williams answered with a jumper of his own. A forced missed three-point attempt by Edinboro seemed to give Gannon an opportunity, but an offensive put-back left the Knights trailing by two with four seconds left.
Gannon immediately inbounded the ball to Jackson who raced down the court and drew a foul while shooting a long three-pointer at the buzzer.
At the line, Jackson made the first two before an Edinboro timeout. The ice didn’t work, however, and Jackson drained the dagger to secure the one-point victory.
Jackson led the scoring attack once again with 18 points and a career-high nine assists.
Phoenix narrowly missed his 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and nine boards, while Williams added 14 off the bench.