Phoenix — When you walk into a hostile environment against the top team in the conference, there is a tendency for teams to fall behind early and dig themselves too big of a hole to dig out of. That was the case on Saturday afternoon when Utah Valley University visited the GCU Arena.
Grand Canyon used a 12-0 run in the first half to climb out to a 37-16 with six minutes to play in the half and held off a furious second half rally by the Wolverines en route to a 99-88 victory in front of 4,672 fans.
The Wolverines dropped to 7-11 overall and 1-2 in WAC play. GCU improved to 16-2 and 3-0 in league play. It was also the ninth straight win for the Lopes.
“I’m really fortunate to be able to coach these young men,” said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope said in a statement to wolverinegreen.com. “They are fighters. They are playing so hard and they are relentless. I’m really proud of the effort tonight. These guys are making unbelievable strides. We just came up a little short against a really good team on the road tonight.”
Despite being down by 21 with six minutes to play in the half, the Wolverines didn’t quit. They used a 21-10 run to end the first half and trailed by just ten points heading into the locker room at 47-37. The run was fueled by UVU forward Konner Frey, who scored 15 of his team-high 21 points in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The problem for the Wolverines was that they couldn’t stop GCU forward Joshua Braun, who has 18 points in the first half. And even when they managed to stop him from hitting field goals, Braun found a way to get fouled and go to the free throw line where he was 7-of-7 in the first half.
In the second half, it was a back and forth battle. GCU kept the Wolverines at a safe distance for most of the half and their largest lead got to 14 with 8:11 to play. UVU cut the lead down to five on a Konner Frey layup in which he got fouled and made the free throw. But the Wolverines couldn’t get any closer. Jaden Jackson, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, and Marcel Davis, who had 17 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers with under two minutes to play that brought the Wolverines within five at 91-86 but they couldn’t get over the hump.
GCU went 8-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch to walk away with the win.
It was a physical game as the teams combined to shot 73 free throws and committed 51 fouls on the afternoon. UVU was 27-of-33 from the line and GCU was 30-40 from the line. Braun scored a game-high and career-high 34 points and Grandy Glaze had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Lopes.
Hayden Schenck and Ivory Young were the only other Wolverines in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
UVU will travel to UMKC and Chicago State on Jan. 21 and Jan 23 looking to get back in the win column.
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