Men’s basketball: GCU rides hot streak to winning finish over UVU

Photo by Brigham Berthold

“We can’t guard a high ball screen and we can’t execute a high ball screen,” said UVU head coach Mark Pope. “And everybody knows it.”

In a game that Pope said was “eerily similar” to many games throughout this season, UVU (11-15, 3-8) was unable to hold onto a lead late in the second half and fell to Grand Canyon University (19-9, 8-3) 77-71 Saturday night in the UCCU Events Center.

As with many late game collapses this season, the game slowed down in the home stretch and the opposing offense became focused around the high ball screen. The Wolverines were unable to match the execution on their own end.

With 8:29 remaining in the game, Ivory Young hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night, capping a season-high 18-point performance and giving UVU a 61-55 lead. Over the next 7:25 the Lopes would go on a 20-5 run, essentially securing the victory. GCU shot 6-of-10 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line over the stretch, while UVU faded, shooting 2-of-8 from the field with five turnovers. The Wolverines ended the game with 20 turnovers to the Lopes’ 12, a big factor in determining the outcome.

UVU put itself in good position to win the game with a strong first half which included a personal highlight reel for Brandon Randolph. With 5:36 remaining in the half, Randolph swatted a DeWayne Russell layup into the stands. A few minutes later he capitalized on some chaos on UVU’s end of the court, collecting a loose ball and taking it strong to the rim for a dunk. The Wolverines were set to take a one-point lead into the halftime locker room before GCU’s Shaq Carr pulled up from just inside the UVU 3-point line with 0.8 seconds remaining and drained a three-quarter court shot, giving the Lopes a two-point halftime lead instead.

The Wolverines wasted no time erasing that deficit in the second half, taking advantage of a scoring drought from GCU to build a five-point lead in the early goings. Kenneth Ogbe was a big factor in the second half, scoring 11 points after going scoreless in the first half.

“He made really solid plays in the second half. He was playing aggressive,” said Pope. “I thought he gave us a big time spark. He’s so long and athletic, he’s really a problem.”

Joining Young and Ogbe in double digits were Randolph and Isaac Neilson with 12 and 10, respectively. It was a good bounce back game for Neilson after a tough matchup with the Cal State Bakersfield big men. He finished with a double-double, pulling down 13 rebounds.

With only one home game remaining in the season, UVU will hit the road for its next contest. The Wolverines will face off with New Mexico State University on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

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