In front of 5,702 vocal and animated fans at GCU Arena the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks beat the Grand Canyon Antelopes 75-70 in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. NAU improves to 20-14 while GCU’s season ends at 17-15.
Here’s five things we learned from the in-state showdown.
1. Not Jack’s ‘Jacks…well, at least not Wednesday. It’s been a trying, emotional week for NAU after head coach Jack Murphy was suspended one game after the ‘Jacks controversial loss to Montana in the Big Sky Tournament semi-finals. Assistant Matt Dunn took over for Murphy. In the closely contested game NAU never flinched and now have 20 wins and the program’s first ever post-season win. “It’s what we’ve done all year-long,” Dunn said. “We had a really good second half. Our team always plays well in front of big crowds. We knew that when it was announced it was going to be hosted here that our guys would play fine.” They will likely be back on the road for their second-round game which has yet to be determined.
2. Rolls-Royce…no player on either team was hotter in the first half than GCU senior guard Royce Woolridge who started 6-6 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line before missing his first shot just minutes before halftime. The former Sunnyslope High star had a game-high 17 at intermission and finished with 24 in his GCU finale. “I caught myself tearing up in the locker room, Woolridge explained. “It’s bittersweet…I’m sad. I’m going to miss this.” The Washington State transfer also added a game-high three steals.
3. Double Trouble…college basketball post-season success and talented, experienced guard play usually go hand-in-hand. NAU’s senior tandem of Aaseem Dixon and Quinton Upshur combined for 40 of the team’s 70 points including a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line and 7-19 from behind the arc. Dixon had 12 of his game-high 21 in the second half as the visitors outscored the hosts 39-30.
4. Russell’s Rough Night…’Lopes junior point guard DeWayne Russell, a former Lumberjack, didn’t exactly leave Flagstaff on the best of terms. Wednesday he didn’t exactly play well against his former team struggling with his shooting making just one of 10 shots finishing with just three points. He also had as many turnovers as assists (three). “Dwayne has just been in a little bit of a slump,” GCU head coach Dan Majerle said. “It’s unfortunate. Nobody feels worse than him. I know, obviously, he wanted to play well against NAU but he hasn’t played well in the last six or seven games.”
5. Cold As Ice…the ‘Lopes have struggled with offensive consistency all season and nothing changed against NAU. After starting strong and shooting 50% (15-30) in the first half, Majerle’s squad made only 13-38 after the break and just three of 22 three-pointers (13.6%). When GCU absolutely needed points nobody was able to fill the void. The starters outside of Woolridge (9-13) connected on just 10-29 shots. Senior Jerome Garrison’s stellar career ended with just two points in 17 minutes.