‘Lopes fall to Seasiders to open Hawaii trip

slider gcu_lopesThe Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team fell this evening, 79-75, to BYU-Hawai’i at the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawai’i.

The loss drops the Antelopes to 10-6 overall, 4-4 in the Pacific West Conference and 0-5 on the road. BYU-Hawai’i improved to 10-7, 7-1 in the league and share of the conference lead.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight, which is different than what we have done here in the past,” said head coach Russ Pennell. “There were signs tonight that I really liked.”

The Antelopes trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but used a 12-4 run in the final 5:30 to close the gap to 36-33. Speed scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half.  

After falling behind 44-35 in the second half, Canyon once again mounted a comeback. Two three pointers from Nick Witherill and jumper by Speed gave the Antelopes a 47-46 lead with 14:19 remaining. The Seasiders regained the lead on the next possession and did not trail for the rest of the game. GCU cut the lead to a single possession on numerous occasions over the final 14 minutes, including a Speed three-pointer that cut the BYU lead to 76-73 with 12 seconds left.

“I thought we played about as hard as we have all year,” said Pennell. “We were down 11 at one time and came back and led by one. We were down nine at one point and came back and tied it. Our resolve and intensity were clearly there. Now what we need to do is be better thinkers. There were times in the game where they ran plays we had prepared for and we didn’t execute. You can’t allow that to happen and we allowed too many easy baskets.”

Nick Witherill finished with 14 points. Blake Davis added 11.

The Seasiders shot 56 percent for the game, including a 15-for-23 clip (65%) in the second half. BYU-Hawai’i made 11-of-19 from behind the arc.

GCU shot 53 percent in the second half and 47 percent for the game, their second-best effort of the season. The Antelopes were a perfect 12-for-12 from the line.

Grand Canyon will next be in action when they face Chaminade on Jan. 30 in Honolulu. Tipoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. (Arizona time).

“We have to do what we did tonight in our effort and intensity,” added Pennell. “But we need to do better and the biggest thing I challenged our guys with is to not let this discourage them and lead to a bad performance on Monday. It’s a new day and competitors will pick themselves off the mat and have just as good as an effort, or better, the next time out.”

Notes: GCU and BYU were even at 29 rebounds…GCU forced 15 turnovers to BYU’s 13, losing a game for only the second time this season when leading in the turnover margin…GCU is 1-5 when trailing at the half.