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Grand Canyon Basketball Uses Second-Half Surge to Put Away California Baptist

The Grand Canyon Antelopes certainly know that there are no easy nights in the Western Athletic Conference this season. GCU came into Wednesday night’s rivalry game against the California Baptist Lancers off a one-point upset loss at Dixie State. As a result, Grand Canyon basketball sits a full two games back of the frontrunners in the WAC standings.

To sustain an upset loss and then have to turn around and play a rivalry game on the road is easier said than done. Fortunately, Bryce Drew’s Antelopes were up to the challenge. Grand Canyon’s experienced backcourt duo of Javon Blacksher Jr. and Holland Woods led the charge offensively on Wednesday. GCU clamped down defensively to start the second half and built a double-digit lead that they would never relinquish. Although California Baptist made a run late, Grand Canyon held on for a key 65-60 WAC basketball triumph.

Jovan Blacksher Jr. Grand Canyon Antelopes basketball Western Athletic Conference WAC
Credit: David Kadlubowski/GCU Athletics

Second Half Surge Keys Grand Canyon Antelopes in Road Win

The California Baptist faithful turned out in droves for Wednesday night’s rivalry game. With roughly 5,000 fans in attendance at the CBU Events Center, the atmosphere was rocking all night long. Both Grand Canyon and CBU got off to hot starts offensively. Holland Woods put home the game’s first points on a layup that came just 17 seconds into the game. Elijah Thomas answered with a layup for the Lancers to get things off and running quickly.

The first half of this WAC basketball matchup featured plenty of back-and-forth action. Neither team was able to gain a massive advantage. Cal Baptist took its first lead of the game right around the 15-minute mark of the first half on a three-pointer by Ty Rowell. Another Rowell triple moments later pushed CBU’s advantage to three. In response, Woods took over by scoring the next seven points of the game to steady the ship for the Antelopes.

A layup by Blacksher with just under 8:30 to go in the half extended GCU’s advantage to five. Just when things appeared to be getting dicey for the Lancers, big man Daniel Akin stepped up with an answer. A layup and a pair of free throws pulled CBU to within one. Then, a Taran Armstrong triple put the Lancers back on top. While Woods did not score again in the half, he assisted on a pair of buckets including a sick alley-oop lob to Sean Miller-Moore and a Taeshon Cherry three-pointer as the Lopes built a two-point edge at the break.

Antelopes Start Second Half on 13-4 Run to Stretch Lead to Double Figures

Coming out of the locker room, it was anyone’s game for the taking. Over the first seven and a half minutes of the second half, Grand Canyon basketball asserted themselves in a big way. Gabe McClothan and Sean Miller-Moore got the half started with back-to-back buckets to make it a 37-31 game. The Antelopes proceeded to clamp down defensively after that. It took over three minutes of game time for Akin to score California Baptist’s first points of the half.

Once again, Grand Canyon’s veteran backcourt took control. Blacksher’s assist to Yvan Ouedraogo for a dunk was followed up by Woods feeding Cherry for yet another three-pointer. After another stretch of solid defensive play, Aidan Igiehon converted a lay-in at the 13-minute mark to stretch GCU’s lead to 11.

Although California Baptist basketball fought valiantly to get back into things, the Antelopes would never allow their lead to shrink under five points the rest of the way. Blacksher was flying around everywhere in the second half. He piled up seven points over a five-minute span with the final two coming on a nasty spin-cycle maneuver in traffic. That bucket gave GCU a 12-point advantage, the largest margin of the game. Cal Baptist turned up the full-court pressure late, but Woods sank three of four free throws in the final minute to ice away the win for Grand Canyon basketball.

Jovan Blacksher, Holland Woods Lead Grand Canyon Basketball

It’s no secret that strong guard play is a major plus in the month of March. With the WAC Tournament draws near, Grand Canyon basketball had to be pleased with the effort put forth by their two upperclassmen guards on Wednesday night. Both Jovan Blacksher Jr. and Holland Woods posted identical 16-point, three-assist stat lines to pave the way to victory for the Lopes. The backcourt duo was a calming presence for GCU all night long. Whether it was setting up an open teammate or finishing themselves, Blacksher and Woods took control whenever things seemed to be going sideways.

Not to be outdone, Sean Miller-Moore posted a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double for GCU in the win. Despite shooting under 60% as a team at the foul line and coughing up 18 turnovers, the Antelopes were able to stretch their lead in the second half and hang on down the stretch. The foul shots may have been ugly, but Grand Canyon shot over 48% collectively from the field.

Ty Rowell Scores 16 to Lead CBU on Milestone Night

While California Baptist fought hard throughout, their inability to convert on shot attempts in the early part of the second half doomed their hopes. The Lancers shot just 35% from the floor as a team, a far cry from the shooting performance of GCU.

Junior guard Ty Rowell led the way with 16 points while achieving a career milestone in the process. Rowell knocked down four three-pointers for the game to move into second-place all-time in California Baptist basketball history in made triples. Daniel Akin posted a solid all-around line with 12 points, seven boards and two steals.

Looking Ahead

After knocking off a long-time rival on the road, it’s right back to the grind for Grand Canyon basketball. The Antelopes have a massive Western Atheltic Conference showdown against New Mexico State up next on Saturday. The Havocs will be going wild inside GCU Arena for a game that the Lopes have to have if they hope to earn a share of the WAC regular-season title.

As for California Baptist, only one home game remains on the schedule after Wednesday night’s loss and that isn’t until next month. Rick Croy’s Lancers face another stiff test on the road this Saturday when they head north to face Seattle University. The Redhawks are currently tied with NMSU atop the WAC standings.

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