GCU wins seventh straight with convincing victory over Academy of Art

slider gcu_lopesThe Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team defeated Academy of Art, 82-50, today at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, Calif. in their largest margin of victory of the season.

The Antelopes improved to 17-7 overall and 11-5 in Pacific West Conference play. The Urban Knights fell to 4-23 overall, 2-15 in the conference.

The win was the seventh straight for the ‘Lopes and keeps their hopes alive for postseason play.

“I thought it was one of our better all-around games,” said head coach Russ Pennell. “What we really try to preach is team basketball. We want everyone to contribute, whether it is in points, rebounds or passing. It was a great testament to the way we have been playing lately. The guys shared the ball very well and we had the opportunity to get everybody involved.”

The ‘Lopes shot 46.6 percent (27-for-58) from the field and drained 13 of their 18 free throws. GCU overpowered the Knights on the boards 38-33 and forced 18 turnovers.

“It seems to me that everyone understands their roles and they are playing to that strength,” Pennell said. “We know who is supposed to be getting the ball where and to me, that means we are maturing. We had a lot of new faces at the start of the year and now we are putting it all together. Confidence is a great thing because when you believe in the system and each other, it is easy to go out there and play free. Right now, we are playing very free in our minds and having fun playing basketball.”

GCU was led by Braylon Pickrel with 16 points, as he was one of five GCU players in double-digit scoring. Pickrel also pulled down 11 rebounds and collected five blocks. Kyle Speed had 13 points, Jerome Garrison and Justin Wesolowski each had 12 points and Justin Foreman added 11 points.

“When you have a guy who can score inside, it is an easy way to get points,” Pennell added. “Braylon has been as good for us on defense as he has been on offense. His presence gives us another way of scoring because we can get the ball inside to him. He has been very consistent.”

The ‘Lopes outscored the Urban Knights 12-4 in the first four minutes of the game as they made five of their first six shots. GCU led by as many as 16 points in the half as they shot 48.5 percent (16-for-33) from the field.

Pickrel led all scorers into the locker room with 12 points, while Wesolowski added eight points and Steve Morin had five.

GCU opened the second half on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 23 points at 50-27 with just under 16 minutes to play. The Knights put together a 16-4 run beginning with 15 and a half minutes remaining to pull within 12 points at 54-42 with 10:10 to play, the closest they would come in the game. Kyle Speed then drained a three-pointer to put the ‘Lopes ahead again by 15 with just under 10 minutes to play.

GCU will next be in action when they host Cal Baptist on March 1 at GCU Arena in Phoenix. Tipoff is slated for 6:30 p.m.