Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grand Canyon Men's Basketball Edges Simon Fraser, 74-72

On a night when Grand Canyon (3-5) held Simon Fraser to 31.1 percent shooting from the field, it was fitting the game came down to a defensive stop.

A combined defensive effort kept Simon Fraser (2-4) from getting off a quality game-tying or game-winning shot at the buzzer, and the Antelopes put an end to a four-game losing streak with a 74-72 victory in the GCU/Crowne Plaza December Classic at Antelope Gymnasium Friday.

“We needed a win,” said coach Russ Pennell, whose club helped force 20 Simon Fraser turnovers and held the Clan to only 18.2 percent shooting in the first half. “In our fashion, we grind it out in the end.”

Junior guard Kyle Speed (Seattle, Wash., Lake Washington, Johnson County CC) had a season-high 21 points to lead the ‘Lopes. In his first career start, sophomore center Barret Robbins (Phoenix, Ariz., Desert Vista, Chandler-Gilbert CC) had a season-high 14. Off the bench, junior guard Fletcher Wynn (Orlando, Fla., Apopka, Louisburg College) sparked the team with 12 points.

“That’s what we like to lay our hat on,” said Speed of the team’s defensive performance. “Every week we try to improve our defense and tonight’s performance was a step in the right direction.”

Grand Canyon led by 13, on a Speed 3-pointer, 64-51, at the 6:16 mark. Simon Fraser got a pair of late 3’s from Justin Brown to aid his team’s comeback, but when the Clan got the ball with 15 seconds remaining in the game, the ‘Lopes defense never let Brown nor leading scorer Ricky Berry, who had a game-high 29 points, get a good look at the basket.

GCU shot 57.7 percent in the second half. Robbins was strong inside hitting 4-of-5 shots. He scored 10 in the final 20 minutes. He replaced senior Gaby Ngoundjo (Douala, Cameroon, Little Rock Christian, Charlotte) who came off the bench for the first time as a ‘Lope. Ngoundjo, who Pennell praised for his approach off the bench, put together a quality game, too, with a team-high six rebounds and game-high four blocked shots to go with nine points.

The points were harder to come by in the first half. GCU got a big spark from Wynn, who scored nine in the first half. Wynn tipped in a Speed miss with 50 seconds remaining to tie the game, 28-28. Then, drove the length of the floor after a SFU miss and scored at the buzzer for a 30-28 halftime lead.

Speed was 6-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 at the free-throw line and had a game-high three steals. He and Steven Morin (Scottsdale, Ariz., Saguaro) tied for team-high honors in assists with four. Wynn added five rebounds.

Grand Canyon takes on Montana State Billings (2-6), a winner over defending national champion Cal Poly Pomona Friday, at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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