GCU falls in First Round of CIT Tournament to NAU

GCU Arena was full for Grand Canyon basketball’s second trip in as many years to the CIT tournament after finishing in a tie for 2nd in their division with an 8-6 record in the WAC. GCU and Northern Arizona looked evenly matched as they both hoped to begin a long road in the playoffs.

The GCU crowd was electric, cheering loudly for the starting lineup that consisted of #2 Joshua Braun, #4 DeWayne Russell, #22 Royce Woolridge, #12 Daniel Alexander, and #21 Jerome Garrison. The seniors knew the stakes were high, as this could possibly be their final game in a Lopes uniform. The game got under way with a bucket by NAU but even though they scored first, the Lopes would dominate the first half.

GCU went 8-8 on their free-throws and 15-30 on their field goal attempts including 2 3-pointers by both #11 Davis and #12 Alexander. GCU led the game for 18:06 of the first half. As both teams struggled for open shots, it seemed that the Lopes made more of their opportunities. The game looked promising for the Lopes as they carried the lead into the half.

The second half was a different story. NAU came out on fire, making needed adjustments and making shot after shot while GCU struggled to make any buckets. NAU managed to catch up and tie the game, and soon the teams were going back and forth in battle for the lead. The score was tied 8 times with 14 lead changes before NAU finally pulled away for a 75-70 victory. While the Lopes had a great first half, the Lumberjacks had too much down the stretch for GCU.

Coach Dan Majerle talked on his offense after the game, “We went 3-22 from (on) threes. We scored with ease in the first half, still didn’t shoot our threes well, 2-10. We came out in the second half and just couldn’t make any shots. And uh, I think maybe the ten days hurt us a little bit but that’s a good team we played. NAU had a great year and a good team. We’re a better shooting team than that. And obviously going 3-22, you’re not going to win any games shooting like that.”

GCU Fans can only hope that after two seasons of being knocked out in the first round of tournament that the Lopes would be hungry for a much longer run in the postseason next year. Coach Marjerle is hopeful for the upcoming season. “We’ve made some strides from our first year [in Division 1] so that’s very positive. It’s a tough loss for our guys. I think they really liked each other, really enjoyed each other and wanted to play more games and some of those guys aren’t going to be able to do it anymore. It’s pretty emotional for everybody.”

Coach Marjerle also said he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight thinking about all the good things to come the next couple of years. NAU’s #1 Aaseem Dixon spoke on NAU’s first tournament victory saying they had been wanting “to make a change” and that they were just “trying to get on the map.” Hopefully the Lopes seeing another state school getting on the map will spark a fire for a longer tournament run next year and their own map marker.

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