‘Lopes Improve to 5-1, Defeat Northern New Mexico

The Grand Canyon University men’s basketball team defeated Northern New Mexico, 69-49, Saturday night at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix.

With the win, GCU improves to 5-1, their best start since going 9-1 to begin the 2005-06 season. The Eagles fell to 1-15.

“We have some pretty good players and we are excited about our start,” said head coach Russ Pennell. “But we aren’t keeping track of the record right now; we are concerned with playing well and getting better.”

GCU took a 4-2 lead on Nick Witherill’s basket just over a minute into the game and never gave the lead back. The ‘Lopes would lead by 15 at the half and by as many as 23 in the second half.

Braylon Pickrel led the Antelopes with 12 points, a career-best 10 rebounds and a career-best tying four blocked shots. Nick Witherill added 11 points.

Grand Canyon shot 44 percent from the floor, but received 59 percent shooting from their starters who were 17-for-29 in the game.

“It’s always good to win,” said Pennell. “I thought we played well in spurts during this game, but our starters shot the ball really well. Sometimes when you play a team with one win, and this is with no disrespect to Northern New Mexico, it can be a challenge mentally for players. Our players need to mature and learn it is a ballgame and you have to go out and put all of that aside.”

The Antelopes played solid defensively, holding the Eagles to 35 percent shooting. GCU forced 21 turnovers and had 11 steals and 10 blocked shots.

Starting point guard Kyle Speed missed tonight’s game due to injury. Jerome Garrison started at the point, scoring 9 points with four rebounds and a pair of assists. Micah Fetters had his best game since coming to GCU, scoring 7 points on 3-for-6 shooting.

Grand Canyon will next be in action on Dec. 16 when they host Saint Martin’s at 6 p.m. at GCU Arena. The game will be televised on Cox7 in Phoenix. The following night the Antelopes will host Cal State San Bernardino, also at 6 p.m.

“Our schedule is going to get significantly tougher and that begins next weekend with two very good clubs,” added Pennell. “These are teams we need to do well against if we want to be a postseason team in March.”

(Article courtesy of Mike McNally, Assistant Athletic Director/Media Relations for Grand Canyon University)