29 Th11 2021 | 08:12
Grand Canyon was going to have a hard time recapturing the defense that led to last season’s WAC regular-season and tournament championships.
Or maybe not. GCU held Grambling State to 22% first-half shooting to run out to a 40-18 halftime lead Tuesday night and never looked back for a season-opening 74-53 blowout at GCU Arena.
The Lopes kept Grambling to three field goals until the final 2:08 of the first half, when junior point guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. showed his exhibition shooting was no flashing in the pan. Blacksher nearly outscored Grambling by himself in the first half with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
GCU’s depth flexed from the time they the starters’ strong opening and stretched it to a 21-5 lead to the end, when Lopes head coach Bryce Drew went 11-deep with reserve guards Jayden Stone and Jalen Blackmon late in the half. Blackmon, a freshman from Marion, Indiana, made a steal on his first college possession, setting up Stone for a transition 3-pointer. A possession later, it was Blacksher finding Blackmon for another transition 3.
The Lopes could be picky about turnover issues carrying over from the exhibition and leaving points with 4-of-9 free throw shooting in the first half, but GCU crushed Grambling 29-10 on the boards with junior power forward Yvan Ouedraogo and senior small forward Taeshon Cherry each grabbing four.
The momentum continued into the second half, when GCU built its largest lead at 58-28 with 11:21 to go after a bench crew with Cherry, senior center Aidan Igiehon, junior power forward Gabe McGlothan and sophomore guard Chance McMillian.
Grambling scored most of its points in the final 11 minutes, including an 11-0 run that cut the lead to 62-46 with 5:37 to go and prompted Drew to re-enter some starters.
Blacksher did not score in the second half, but still finished as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, three assists and two steals. McGlothan added 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench, cleaning up his eight-turnover exhibition with no miscues Tuesday night.
GCU shot 47% from the field and hit 9 of 19 shots from 3-point range with Blacksher making 3 of 6 beyond the arc. Grambling finished with 37% shooting and made 17 turnovers with GCU making 11 steals.