Speed’s 20 paces Canyon to sixth-straight win

slider gcu_lopesThe Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team ran their win streak to six games tonight, defeating Chaminade 77-69, at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. The game was played in front of a crowd of 4,016.

The win keeps GCU’s postseason hopes alive and moves them into a third-place tie with California Baptist. The Antelopes’ record now stands at 16-7, 10-5 in the Pacific West Conference. Chaminade falls to 9-13, 7-8 in the league.

“We started out a little slow tonight,” said head coach Russ Pennell. “But I’m not so sure that wasn’t because of Chaminade. They are desperate right now. They have lost games, but they are a solid team. We hung in there and made some adjustments at halftime. We made an emphasis to go inside and changed our transition defense and ran more into the paint and tried to keep the off the rim.”

Grand Canyon trailed 36-33 at the half, but shot 54.5% (12-for-22) in the second half to secure the victory.

It took the ‘Lopes almost three minutes to score a basket in the second half, but once they did it keyed a 12-0 run that put them in front 45-38. Justin Wesolowski and Braylon Pickrel each had four points during the run.

The lead was twice cut to five on two occasions, the last coming with 13:22 remaining in the game. Wesolowski, who had seven points and seven rebounds in the second, was strong on both ends of the floor to thwart any hope of a Silverswords’ rally.

“A big key tonight was the play of Justin and Barret Robbins in the second half,” added Pennell. “They came out and held to (Matt) Cousins to just four points and two rebounds in the second half after he went for 12 and nine in the first.”

The first half was a series of runs for both teams. Chaminade opened the game with a 16-7 lead but was then followed by a 14-0 run by the Antelopes. The Swords answered back and went on a 12-2 run of their own, leading them to a three-point halftime advantage.

Kyle Speed led GCU with 20 points tonight, matching his season high. Pickrel added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Grand Canyon will next be in action on Feb. 25 when they travel to San Francisco, Calif. to face Academy of Art. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. (Arizona time).

“I dread this game already, but in a positive way,” said Pennell. “It is going to be a hard game. Art is one of those teams that if you look at their record you will be in trouble. They are so much better than their record shows and play real well at the Kezar Pavilion. It is an old NBA arena with lots of character. It’s going to be a tough task and we told the guys it may be as hard a game to win that we will play. We need to get our minds around that and be ready to go.”

After the Art U game, GCU will return home for the final two games of the regular season. They will host Cal Baptist on March 1 and Dixie State on March 3. Tipoff at GCU Arena will be 6:30 p.m. for both games.