Knights prepare for key road games
The Gannon University women’s basketball team captured two more Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference wins last week.
And after Clarion University upset second-place Edinboro University Saturday at McComb Fieldhouse, the Knights moved one step closer to their first conference title since 2009-10, the same year they reached the Final Four.
But don’t expect any scoreboard watching from the Knights, who will face third-place Indiana University of Pennsylvania for the second time 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and follow it up with a visit to California University of Pennsylvania Saturday.
“We can’t do anything but look at the team we play,” Gannon coach Cleve Wright said. “Whenever you look ahead like that, you’re setting yourself up for a disappointment or a misstep.”
In the latest coaches poll released Tuesday, Gannon reached No. 6, its highest ranking so far this season.
Last week’s wins against Slippery Rock and Lock Haven universities also gave the Knights 20 wins for second straight season and fourth time in five years.
Gannon breezed past Slippery Rock by outscoring the Rock 49-29 in the first half on the way to an 82-64 win on the road Wednesday before it wore down a game Lock Haven team, 70-62, at the Hammermill Center Saturday.
In both games last week, sophomore guard Batts led the Knights with games of 18 and 20 points.
Batts is Gannon’s leading scorer, averaging 13 points per game. She ranks third in the country in 3-point percentage, shooting 46.7 percent, and is fourth with 3.3 3’s per contest.
“I wouldn’t be able to have the success without my teammates helping me get open,” Batts said. “We have great post players on the inside and we want to feed them the ball, and if they double them they can kick it out, we can drive. It opens up so many options.”
Forward Nettie Blake had statiscally her best game Saturday, finishing with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
On Wednesday, the Knights will try to avoid a repeat of last season, when, after routing IUP in their first meeting, the Hawks beat Gannon in the next two contests, the last in the PSAC tournament.
“That was tough losing to them last year, but we take every practice and game the same way,” Batts said.
The Crimson Hawks, who are 8-1 at home this season, appear to be to be cut from the same cloth as the Knights. Like Gannon, IUP’s starting lineup includes three sophomores in Marita Mathe, Amy Fairman and Ashley Stoner.
The Crimson Hawks also have two Erie natives in Lindsay Stamp and Zhane Brooks on the team. Stamp transferred to Indiana after spending her freshman season at Mercyhurst last year.
“I think when you look at the classes and the makeup of the team, it is very similar,” Wright said.
In addition to Wednesday’s game at IUP, Gannon will also host Edinboro on Feb. 13 for a game with PSAC implications.
Currently, the Knights’ magic number — the combination of Gannon wins and losses for either Edinboro or IUP until Gannon clinches the conference — is six.
Wright declined to speculate on whether he would consider resting players should the Knights clinch the conference title early.
“I wouldn’t even fathom considering to think about that, just because we’re so focused on who we’re playing next.,” Wright said.
Gannon has already clinched at least a home game in the first round of the conference tournament. It can secure a first-round bye with wins this week coupled with an IUP loss to Clarion Saturday.
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