PHOENIX - (Jan. 21) Seattle University men’s basketball led Grand Canyon for nearly 33 minutes Saturday night in Western Athletic Conference play at GCU Arena. But a thrilling second half of play went to the Lopes as the home team escaped with a 61-59 final over the Redhawks.
Things got exciting midway through the second half as the teams traded seven consecutive three pointers. The stretch of triples was followed by back-to-back buckets by William Powell, giving the Redhawks a seven-point cushion, 52-46, with 6:32 to play.
Joshua Braun would make five straight free throws for GCU (13-7, 3-1 WAC), sandwiched by a Matej Kavas runner in the lane. A Keonta Vernon dunk make it a two-point game, 54-52, with the Redhawks still in the lead.
But Braun wasn’t finished. He would hit back-to-back threes as the Redhawks (9-10, 1-3 WAC) went scoreless for a four-minute stretch. His first triple gave the Lopes their first lead since scoring the game’s first bucket. His second gave the squad a four-point, 58-54 cushion.
Jack Shaughnessy drained a three of his own just inside a minute to go, cutting the GCU lead down to one, 58-57.
After running the shot clock down, the Lopes would miss their shot attempt, but snag the offensive board and a foul on Emmanuel Chibuogwu. GCU’s Vernon hit just one of two, leaving the door open for the Redhawks with 28 seconds remaining.
But Brendan Westendorf was called for an offensive foul on his drive to the basket, putting the ball back in the Lopes’ hands. Forced to foul, Braun went to the line for a pair of opportunities to seal the game, but missed both. Looking to push the ball quickly up the court, Westendorf committed another turnover and Braun would hit two free throws to seal the GCU win.
Kavas finished with 16 points to lead Seattle U, including 11 in the first half. Westendorf had 15 points and Chibuogwu added 10. Powell finished with six points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals before fouling out with three minutes to go.
Braun and WAC leading scorer DeWayne Russell had 19 points apiece for the Lopes. Braun scored 14 of his 19 in the second half.
Seattle U’s defense was stellar nearly the entire game. The Lopes managed just six points through the first 13:30 of the game. In the first half, GCU shot just 28.6 percent from the field (8-of-26) and seven percent from beyond the arc (1-of-14).
For the balance of the game, Seattle U shot better than 47 percent from the field, but also managed just six trips to the charity stripe, making one attempt. Grand Canyon went 14-of-22 from the line, including an 11-of-14 performance from Braun, in the two-point game.
The Redhawks return home to KeyArena next week, hosting WAC leader New Mexico State on Thursday, Jan 26. and UTRGV on Saturday, Jan. 28. Both games will be carried on the WAC Digital network and can be heard on KTTH 770 AM and mynorthwest.com.
The Sounders’ 2016 MLS Cup will be on display at KeyArena during Thursday’s game while Saturday will be Family Health Night at the game.