Coming into Thursday’s matchup with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, the Grand Canyon Antelopes were one of three teams with a perfect record in Western Athletic Conference play. Needless to say, GCU’s unbeaten mark against WAC basketball competition came to an abrupt end in Nacogdoches. The Lumberjacks used a dominant second half to run away with a blowout 71-46 victory. The result put an end to the Antelopes’ seven-game winning streak.
Although it was only a one-point game at the half, SFA never trailed the entire way. The Lumberjacks put on an absolute clinic defensively, effectively handing the top scoring defense in the WAC a taste of their own medicine. Stephen F. Austin held GCU to under 33% shooting from the floor including an awful 5-22 (22.7%) from three-point range. Considering that the Antelopes came into the night shooting better than 37% from deep as a team, the uncharacteristic performance proved to be a telltale sign of the eventual blowout result.
Lumberjacks Clamp Down Defensively in Wire-to-Wire Win
It took all of 18 seconds for Stephen F. Austin basketball to score the first points of Thursday’s game. A jumper by David Kachelries made it 2-0, and the Lumberjacks never looked back from there. It was clear from the onset that SFA had come to play defensively as the lead grew to 7-0 before Grand Canyon finally notched its first bucket of the game at the 15:49 mark of the first half. Stephen F. Austin’s largest lead of the first half came at the nine-minute mark when a dunk by Sadaidriene Hall made it an 18-9 game.
It was then the Jacks’ turn to endure a scoring drought of nearly three minutes as GCU cut the lead all the way down to two with just over six minutes to play in the opening half. The Antelopes twice pulled to within a single point late in the first half and SFA led 32-31 at the break.
A Gavin Kensmil layup got the scoring started exactly one minute into the second half. That bucket was effectively the beginning of the end for Grand Canyon. Stephen F. Austin basketball clamped down hard on the defensive end. The Antelopes scored a single point over the first six minutes of the half. By the time Jalen Blackmon finally scored GCU’s first field goal of the half, his three-pointer merely cut SFA’s lead to nine at 44-35.
It was more of the same after that as the Lumberjacks forced GCU to go on another prolonged scoring drought that lasted another five minutes of game time. After a Holland Woods jumper was true, the Antelopes again were shut out for a full two minutes. By the time Yvan Ouedraogo converted a jumper at the 7:02 mark, Stephen F. Austin had already built up an insurmountable 60-39 advantage. The game turned into an ugly foul fest down the stretch, and the Lumberjacks rolled on to the win.
Balanced Scoring, Stifling Defense Power SFA to Huge WAC Basketball Victory
It was a balanced scoring attack for Stephen F. Austin basketball in Thursday night’s victory. While 16 points was enough for Latrell Jossell to lead the team, he was joined by three other teammates in double figures. Kensmil poured in 13 points to go along with six rebounds. Jalin Jackson-Posey matched that scoring total in an impressive 31 minutes off the bench. Kachelries rounded out the Lumberjacks in double figures with 10 points to go along with five assists and four boards.
Of course, the defensive performance of SFA was the highlight of this WAC basketball win. In addition to holding Grand Canyon to the abysmal shooting numbers, the Jacks also forced 20 turnovers and finished with seven steals as a team. While both sides finished about the same on the defensive glass, Stephen F. Austin had nearly double the offensive boards with 16. The win bumped SFA’s record in the WAC to 4-2 and also ran their home record to 8-2 on the season.
Grand Canyon Suffers Major Shooting Woes as Coach Bryce Drew Forced to Miss Game
Grand Canyon basketball was thrown an unfortunate obstacle before Thursday night’s game even tipped-off. Head coach Bryce Drew was not able to be on the sidelines for the game thanks to those good old “health and safety” protocols. While Drew’s absence undoubtedly played an impact in GCU’s uncharacteristically poor shooting effort, the Antelopes clearly were throttled by the defensive intensity of the Lumberjacks throughout. GCU also failed to take advantage of opportunities at the foul line. 16 total free throws attempted was only three fewer than SFA had for the game. However, the Antelopes barely made half of them, shooting a putrid 56.3% from the stripe as a team.
When it was all said and done, leading scorer Jovan Blacksher accounted for nearly half of Grand Canyon’s 46 total points. In fact, the junior guard was the only Antelope who was not phased by the SFA defense as he shot 7-12 from the floor on his way to scoring 22 points. No other player scored more than six. Coming into the night, Blacksher ranked fourth in the Western Athletic Conference averaging 16.9 points per game.
The loss drops GCU to 5-1 in conference play and to 14-3 overall. While the Antelopes hold an impressive 10-1 record at home in front of their passionate fans, they are now only 3-2 on the road this season.
After picking up their biggest WAC basketball win to date, Kyle Keller’s Lumberjacks will be back in action inside the William R. Johnson Coliseum on Saturday. Stephen F. Austin will have an opportunity to try and take down another WAC powerhouse in Nex Mexico State.
As for Grand Canyon, they will hope to have Coach Drew back on the sidelines for the second leg of this week’s Texas road trip. The Antelopes will make the trek to Huntsville to take on Sam Houston State.