Tim Castaneda, Sports Writer, @xTIMBOxSLICEx
In a close game that saw eight lead changes, UVU men’s basketball fell to visiting Grand Canyon University by a score of 83-74 Thursday in a back-and-forth battle despite Zach Nelson’s 20-point and 11 rebound double-double.
Grand Canyon overcame a terrific night from UVU’s Nelson behind 20-point efforts from guards DeWayne Russell and Jerome Garrison as the Wolverines struggled to get stops on the defensive end down the stretch.
Russell led his team to victory with 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting and went 11-for-12 from the free-throw line, including five made free throws down the stretch as his team finished the game on a 10-5 run.
“You’ve got to make stops and we couldn’t make a stop. Again, we just couldn’t stay disciplined and couldn’t stay positioned well enough,” said UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker. “We got stretched too much in the zone (defense) and I give them credit for their ball and player movement to put us in that position.”
Part of the credit for UVU’s inability to contain Grand Canyon’s offense goes to the penetration by Russell to break down the Wolverines’ zone defense.
“(DeWayne) Russell is a great player and he was getting to the rim pretty much at will and he was making buckets. He was tough to stop,” said Nelson. “We definitely have to do a better job to keep him in front of us.”
The Wolverines clawed their way back into the game to bring the score to 70-69 after Nelson hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes remaining.
Grand Canyon’s Daniel Alexander countered with a 3-pointer on the other end to put his team up by four as they ran away with the lead in the ensuing minutes.
Alexander caused problems for the Wolverines throughout the game in finishing the night with a double-double off the bench with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Grand Canyon’s bench outscored the UVU bench 24-15 in the game.
The Wolverines struggled on the boards in this one as the team allowed 14 offensive rebounds to Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon’s Garrison, who scored 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting, led his team with six offensive rebounds to finish with seven total boards.
UVU point-guard Marcel Davis tied for the team lead in points on the night with 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting, while also adding six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Davis made a couple of layups for the Wolverines in the game’s final minutes, but the team as a whole couldn’t make enough plays to get past the ‘Lopes as time wound down.
“We couldn’t quite make enough plays or we did not make the stops down the stretch that we needed to,” said coach Hunsaker. “I give Grand Canyon the credit for making the plays they needed to and for maintaining that lead.”
With the loss, UVU’s record falls to 6-10 on the season and 1-1 in WAC play.
The Wolverines get set to embark on a two-game road trip beginning with a game at Texas-Pan American on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. MT.