A good start is what the Lopes of Grand Canyon University needed Thursday night in Phoenix. The Lopes won 71-60 win over the Utah Valley Wolverines in the WAC opener for both schools. GCU led the entire game, with the exception of trailing 3-2 in the first minute.
The Lopes came out with some intensity, and it showed early as GCU built a 15-9 lead. The home team was dominate on the boards early, limiting the Wolverines to many one shot possessions. Matt Jackson came out strong scoring 8 of his 12 first half points in the first seven and a half minutes to start the game. Jackson finished with a career high 19 points and team leading 8 rebounds. "I just got some good looks and I just kept it going, " said Jackson about his new career high in points.
The Wolverines, who were coming off a 64-60 win over Fresno State, brought in a five game winning streak, and began to battle back. Utah Valley began to work the ball inside, which garnered success as the Wolverines close the gap to 19-18 with 9:12 in the first half.
GCU big man Alessandro Lever, who scored 14 points, used great patience to work his way around in the paint, creating a smooth bucket to go up 21-18. Oscar Frayer knocked down a three with 5:19 in the half to boost the Lopes lead to 28-22.
What kept the Wolverines close in the first half was a 3-16 performance from beyond the arc by GCU. Both teams shot well from the line GCU 8-9, Utah Valley 7-8, in the first half.
Utah Valley closed the gap to 37-33 on a 7-0 run, prompting GCU coach Dan Majerle to call a timeout with 17:28 left in the contest. Coming out of the timeout, Lever nailed a three to lead 40-33.
The Wolverines (0-1), (11-5), got within two at 42-40 with 13:55. Once again the Lopes refused to give up the lead, and extended it to 45-40 on an old fashioned three point play. As good as the Lopes were in the first half on the boards, it was the opposite in the second, as the Wolverines cut the GCU lead to one again at 49-48 with 9:17 left. Utah Valley was nevr able to tie or take the lead as GCU was relentless on giving up the points thast could have achieved either.
When Carlos Johnson got a bucket with 5:07 left, the Lopes led 57-50. The lead was between five and seven the rest of the way. Matt Jackson perfect from the stripe, hit two free throws to up the lead to 63-56 with 2:11 left. Lever's, nice use of the glass basket, extended the lead to 65-56. Nearly a minute later, Dimari Milstead fed Carlos Johnson for a slam dunk for the final nail in the coffin.
"I was pleased with the effort. We got a good start, which is something we have struggled doing thsi season, " said GCU coach Dan Majerle. "We knew it was going to be tough. We have our top three teams from our conference coming in here and we have to protect our home court," added Majerle.
The loss snaps Utah Valley's five game winning streak, while the Lopes remain perfect at home with their six win at GCU. The Lopes (1-0) and (8-6), will host a very good Seattle University team on Saturday night at 6pm.
GRAND CANYON ANTELOPES 71, UTAH VALLEY WOLVERINES 60
Utah Valley (60)-White 2-7 2-2 6, J. Toolson 4-9 0-0 8, Nakwaasah 6-11 1-1 15, C. Toolson 2-11 0-0 5, Steele 3-4 6-6 12, Washington 1-6 4-5 6, MacDougal 2-5 2-2 6, Cotton 0-0 0-0 0, Lowell 1-3 0-0 2. 21-56 15-16 60
Grand Canyon (71)-Dreschel 1-6 4-6 6, Frayer 3-9 0-0 8, Jackon 6-10 7-8 19, Lever5-12 3-3 14, Milstead 3-8 1-2 8, Johnson 3-8 4-4 10, T. Finke 1-6 0-0 2, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, M. Finke 2-4 0-1 4. 24-64 19-24 71.
Score by Half - 1 2 - T
Utah Valley 26 34 - 60
Grand Canyon 37 34 - 71
Total Fouls-Utah Valley 21, Grand Canyon 17
Three Pointers-Utah Valley (3)-Nakwaasah 2, C. Toolson 1. Grand Canyon (4)-Frayer 2, Milstead 1, Lever 1