Showdown In Vegas: GCU Gets Another Shot At New Mexico State In Title Game

Photo courtesy: David Kadlubowski/GCU Athletics

Story by Brandon Bonaparte

Grand Canyon took care of business Friday night. The Lopes dismantled Seattle University 81-47, landing them a spot in the WAC Tournament Championship and one win away from their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

In recent years, the problem for GCU was never getting to this point. The problem was finishing the job. In 2018 and 2019, the Lopes galloped through the WAC Tournament, only to bump their head against top-seeded New Mexico State in the tournament finals.

This year, GCU gets another shot at the Aggies, but this time the script is flipped, with the Lopes holding the No. 1 seed.

In New Mexico State’s gritty semifinal performance, Utah Valley was held to just 30 percent shooting on the night, propelling the Aggies into the finals.

GCU and NMSU met twice this year, with the Lopes taking both games by an average of 10 points. While the weekend series happened a little over a month ago, GCU can expect a completely different New Mexico State team this time around. 

In the two games, the Lopes held the Aggies to an abysmal 19.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. At that point in late January, NMSU had just played four games due to its rollercoaster, COVID-19 filled season. GCU had already played 15.

The last time the Lopes met the Aggies in the finals in 2019, only a handful of GCU’s current players were on the team (Dixon, Lever, Frayer). Due to COVID-19 tournament cancelations last year, playing on this big of stage is something relatively new to GCU.

“You just don’t know how those games are going to go until you get in and get the flow,” said GCU head coach Bryce Drew. “One team gets hot.”

In many of the WAC Tournament games leading up to this one, team runs have been a commonplace, something Drew expects to happen Saturday night. It will be a showdown in Vegas where GCU looks to finally get over the New Mexico State hurdle.

“Well, we haven’t been there,” Drew said. “When you get in these tournaments, it’s a one game season.”