A season which started with much promise, ended with a thud Wednesday night for Grand Canyon University who fell to underdog Mercer University 78-73 in the opening round of the CBI Tournament.
The Lopes struggled early from the field making just two of their first 12 shots and trailed 36-33 at the half before finding their offensive footing in the second half.
However, down the stretch the visiting Bears (19-14) were simply too much as starting guards Jordan Strawberry and Ross Cummings combined for 42 points and nine assists.
Keonta with the SLAM! pic.twitter.com/TM9AyjZO69
— GCU Men’s Basketball (@GCU_MBB) March 15, 2018
For GCU, the lone bright spots were seniors Keonta Vernon (20 points, six rebounds) and point guard Casey Benson who played arguably his best game of the season (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, no turnovers). Fellow senior and second-leading scorer Joshua Braun was held scoreless in his final college game.
Howard out-rebounded the Lopes 36-30 and make 10 of their 20 three-point attempts and shot 51 percent overall. It marked the best shooting performance from a GCU opponent all season.
Head coach Dan Majerle made no secret of his plans this off-season in hopes of getting GCU to “the next level.”
“I’m not going to sit here with guys year after year after year who keep making the same mistakes,” he explained during his post-game press conference. “It stops now.”
The Lopes, who lost in the Western Athletic Conference Championship to New Mexico State last Saturday night in Las Vegas, finish the year 22-11.
The 22 wins equals their total from the 2016-17 season.