(Seattle, WA) Grand Canyon put on its greatest five-minute onslaught of the season Thursday night but its defense even made that effort moot at Seattle U
The Lopes allowed another magnificent 31-point game from Redhawks guard Terrell Brown, a potential WAC Player of the Year, but this time he had the help of a career game by sophomore power forward Riley Grigsby to beat GCU 95-89 at Redhawk Center.
GCU (12-14, 7-5 WAC) remains in position for the WAC Tournament No. 2 seed by owning the series lead against UT Rio Grande Valley (12-14, 7-5 WAC).
The Lopes nearly stole a victory despite struggling for most of the first 33 minutes of the game for a 78-64 hole, which was Seattle’s largest lead of the game with 6:45 remaining. That was when GCU’s offense turned torrential, scoring on 11 consecutive possessions for 22 points in a stretch of 5:07 as junior center Alessandro Lever posted a 15-point second half.
The Lopes defense still was erratic during the comeback, fouling on four of five Redhawks trips as the margin closed. But GCU cut the lead to 88-86 on a jumper by junior guard Mikey Dixon with 1:27 to play.
After using their final time out to set up defense, the Lopes seemingly had what they wanted by getting the ball out of the hands of Brown, who delivered his 10th assist for another unlikely 3-pointer by Grigsby. With career highs for points (23) and rebounds (12), Grigsby went 4 for 6 on 3-pointers despite entering the game as a 22.2% 3-point shooter.
On the next possession, the Lopes’ streak of scoring on 11 consecutive possessions ended with senior power forward Lorenzo Jenkins’ turnover in the lane. That led to an unfitting foul disqualification for freshman point guard Jovan Blacksher Jr., who continued his brilliant stretch of offensive play with a season-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with five assists.
“We just didn’t have it for whatever reason,” GCU head coach Dan Majerle said. “Like we were running in sand. Just disappointed. I thought they fought hard at the end and found a way to get it close, but just disappointed in the effort on defense and the rebounding especially.”
Foul trouble limited GCU junior swingman Carlos Johnson to 22 minutes, albeit effective time with 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists. His early foul trouble forced the Lopes to go with a five-man lineup for nearly all of the final 12 minutes of the first half.
GCU looked like it might escape the first half in decent shape for how poorly it played defensively. The Lopes trimmed the Seattle lead to 52-47 with 1:33 remaining in the half after Blacksher scored on a follow drive and junior guard Isiah Brown nailed a 3-pointer in his first collegiate game in his hometown. But that was the closest margin GCU would see for a while after the Redhawks closed the half on a 7-0 run for a 54-42 lead.
“Grigsby was the one who hurt us in the first half, just did whatever he wanted to do,” Majerle said. “Driving down the paint, getting offensive rebounds, just disappointing. That’s how they play. They’re an analytical team. They’re going to drive to the basket and get 2s or shoot 3s. They’re going to have nights where they get hot. We did a poor job of fighting in that first half.”
GCU’s previous opponent first-half high for scoring was 43 but Seattle blitzed that with 8-for-16 shooting from 3-point range and a 19-point first half from Grigsby, who entered the game for an 8.9 scoring average. The Redhawks (13-14, 6-6 WAC) finished the game with 47.0% shooting from the field that was helped by 17 fastbreak points, 39.3% shooting on 3s (11 for 28) and 81.5% shooting on free throws (22 for 27).
Lever finished with 23 points, tying him for second on the GCU Division I-era scoring list with DeWayne Russell at 1,249 points with a season-plus to go to chase Joshua Braun’s career mark of 1,714 points. Lever also led GCU in rebounding with nine while playing all 40 minutes. Dixon (16 points) and Brown (14 points) each made 6 of 14 shots with Brown not making a turnover in 32 reserve minutes.
Blacksher’s 21-point, five-assist game gives him a six-game stretch of 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game with 53.7% shooting from the field and 42.1% shooting on 3-pointers.
“He just keeps getting better,” Majerle said. “He understands the game. I told you, it’s slowing down for him. His shot keeps getting better. He’s a good playmaker. We just need other guys to step up.”
Press Release by Paul Coro – GCU Athletics