There has been a lot of talk about GCU’s schedule. Many have wondered how good the Lopes really are. Coming into Saturday night, GCU had played just three true road games. And one of those was simply across town at Arizona State. The lone signature win on the schedule came on Nov. 29 at Loyola Marymount.
So, on Saturday night, it was an opportunity to make a statement. And junior guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. did all he could to make sure GCU made that statement.
Blacksher scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as GCU knocked off previously undefeated San Francisco, 49-48, at the Footprint Center. The win is the biggest in the Division I era for GCU. San Francisco came in with a Net ranking of 27 and KenPom ranking of 32. Plus, like it was said, the Dons were undefeated.
GCU’s best win prior to Saturday was at San Diego State on Dec. 18, 2016 when the Lopes beat the Aztecs, 52-45, under then-head coach Dan Majerle. At the time the Aztecs had a KenPom ranking of 46.
“We played with a ton of heart tonight,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. “We played with a lot of toughness.”
While it was Blacksher who did all the scoring, it may have been Ivan Ouedraogo who was the hero for the Lopes. On a night when both teams shot poorly at 35 percent, rebounds were aplenty. And Ouedraogo may have picked up the two most important late in the second half.
With GCU leading 46-45 with 1:29 to play, Ouedraogo came up with two offensive rebounds on the same possession. And the second to a Jovan Blacksher jumper that gave the Lopes a 48-45 lead. The two offensive boards were part of a career-high 16 rebounds for Ouedraogo.
“I give all credit to the coaches,” said Lopes junior power forward Yvan Ouedraogo, who grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds. “We had a really good game prep. We knew that we had to be physical and deny them. I think we got them tired. I don’t think they’ve played against a team that pushed them like we did. After that, I would just say our heart. A lot of players on this team have a lot of heart.”
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“Jovan was just sensational,” Drew said. “We were trying to manufacture points for most of the night. He did a great job.”
Holland Woods also had the assignment to defend Jamaree Bouyea who averages 20.0 points per game. Well, Woods got the job done, holding Bouyea to just seven points on 3-14 shooting as well as 0-3 from deep. an Francisco was averaging nearly 76 points per game coming into Saturday night. But, GCU held its own and put on the defensive clamps.
“Holland usually shoots much better, but he was so exhausted from playing defense,” Drew said of Woods, who went 1 for 11 on Saturday. “He did a tremendous job of making it tough for Bouyea to get clean looks at it.”
Well, in all reality, both teams put on the defensive clamps but GCU was able to get in the final punch and walk away with its biggest win of the Division I era. The Lopes improve to 10-2 overall and will head north to Reno to take on Nevada on Tuesday before opening WAC play by hosting Chicago State on Dec. 30.