The Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team fell, 73-56, to Dixie State at Burns Arena in St. George, Utah.
The loss drops the Antelopes to 8-5 overall, 2-3 in the Pacific West Conference and 0-4 on the road. Dixie State, winners of 25 of their last 28 games in Burns Arena, improved to 10-4, 5-1 in the league.
GCU started well, shooting 10-for-15 to open up a 25-15 lead 12 minutes into the game. The Red Storm would respond, outscoring the ‘Lopes 18-8 to bring the game into the break knotted at 33.
A 13-0 run by Dixie State to open the second half gave them a 46-33 lead, one they would not relinquish.
Justin Foreman would score six points as the Antelopes closed within four with a 9-0 run of their own, 48-44, with 12 minutes left in the game. It would be as close as they would get.
GCU, who had forced 13 first-half turnovers, was plagued by 23 turnovers of their own, including 11 in the decisive second half.
“I’m very disappointed,” said head coach Russ Pennell. “We played well in the first half, especially the first 10-12 minutes. We just had a problem taking care of the ball tonight, which is very uncharacteristic of us. I thought we squandered some opportunities early on to establish a commanding lead. It’s just disappointing.”
Grand Canyon finished the night with a minus 6 (17-23) in the turnover battle, after coming in with the conference-best turnover margin at plus 1.25.
Both teams shot well in the first half, with GCU shooting at 54.5 percent clip, compared to 52.2 for DSC. The Red Storm would hold the ‘Lopes to 29.2 percent shooting in the second half and only 23 points.
A week after dominating Dominican on the inside, Dixie would turn the tables on GCU, outscoring the ‘Lopes 44-18 in the paint during the game and 38-29 on the boards.
“We were in foul trouble,” said Pennell. “Braylon has been playing really well, but we were only able to get him 17 minutes with his foul trouble and then he rolled his ankle up. We didn’t get very good play from our other guys in there. We knew coming in that this was Dixie’s strength and they got the best of us inside tonight.”
Kyle Speed led the ‘Lopes with 12 points, all coming in the first half. Braylon Pickrel added 11 points and nine rebounds.
“I told the guys we need to regroup and find out about our character,” added Pennell. “There is not a lot we can tell them that that we aren’t already practicing each day. We are doing the right things in practice to make us successful, but we are still having breakdowns during the game. We need to correct that to have success moving forward.”
Grand Canyon returns home for a pair of games, beginning with a contest against Hawai’i Hilo on Jan. 19. They will then host Hawai’i Pacific on Jan. 24. Tip times for both games at Grand Canyon University Arena are scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“I believe this team still has a great chance of doing well,” said Pennell. “But we have to start making a move right now.”