The Gannon University men’s basketball team is currently riding a five-game win streak with the aid of a double-digit victory against the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in its most recent game.
The Knights dropped the Mountain Cats, 72-59, on Jan. 22 while being led by junior guard Adam Blazek with 21 points, three steals and four assists. Blazek received secondary scoring from senior guard/forward C.J. Oldham, who tallied 17 points and ripped down seven rebounds.
Both Gannon guards logged 40 minutes of playing time during the game. Blazek is ranked No. 1 in minutes played in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with 37.3, and Oldham rounds out the top 15 with 32.4 minutes per game.
Coach John Reilly said that his players are able to perform at a high level because they practice with intensity at game speed.
“I think everybody on the team is well-conditioned,” Reilly said. “We push the pace of practice.”
Blazek said that Reilly’s coaching style and format of practice has been the key to allow him to log so many minutes in each game.
“We’ll scrimmage each other and Reilly just has a feel for it,” Blazek said. “He’s been doing this for 25 years.
“A lot of the drills we do are very taxing and involve physical contact, boxing out, playing defense, closing out, so you’re in a stance and working the whole time.”
Blazek also said that practice ranges between 2 1/2 to three hours, which allows his body to remain effective even late in games.
Reilly also said that Blazek and Oldham go beyond merely playing a great deal of minutes for the team, and added that both players excel at aspects of the game that do not show up in the box score.
Blazek made a similar observation while evaluating the play of his teammate Rogerio Livramento, the senior forward.
“Last year was his first year and he really worked but he was just trying to understand everything and he didn’t get a lot of time during his junior year,” Blazek said. “But now he’s a senior. He is a completely different player – he knows a lot more about basketball, he knows all the rotations and he knows how we play defense here.
“He doesn’t start but when he gets in there, he is effective. I think he is leading our team in field goal percentage and he gets good rebounds when he’s in there. He is a very key player for us.”
Livramento leads the Knights in field goal percentage, hitting 60 percent of his shots. Livramento secured five rebounds and drained two baskets out of the three that he attempted in the win over Pitt Johnstown.
Blazek credits the Knights working together as a unit on defense with helping Gannon string together some wins.
“I think guys have improved on rotating, knowing which guys are shooters and just helping each other out because it’s a lot easier when you’re playing team defense,” he said.
Oldham said that if the team keeps the same mindset that they have had for past couple of weeks, the Knights will have a great chance to win their away game against the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“They are a team that has gotten a lot better since the first time we played them and they are a team we definitely respect,” Oldham said. “They had a great win against IUP at IUP, which shows what they are capable of.”
The Knights will then return home to take on the Seton Hill Griffins at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hammermill Center. Reilly laid out the keys to success in both of Gannon’s matchups this week.
“If we are going to remain successful, we need to continue defending well, continue to rebound and most importantly value the ball,” Reilly said.
The Knights have been streaky this season, but appear to be finding a groove at the right time. Gannon is in a four-way tie for first place in the western division of the PSAC with Mercyhurst University, IUP and Slippery Rock University. A strong close to the season would propel the Knights to an elite status among PSAC teams.