Yes, the Grand Canyon announcers and Grand Canyon faithful will say it was a valiant effort on Friday night against Big Ten foe Illinois. In some aspects, it was. However, getting out-rebounded by 26, allowing 20 offensive boards, and sending a team to the free throw line 30 times is tough to overcome.
In the first two games of WAC schools against Power 5 opponents, Seattle and Grand Canyon struggled. It is as simple as that. The Redhawks lost 85-54 on Thursday at Washington State. GCU fell 83-71 at home against Illinois on Friday night.
Here is a look at both games and what went wrong.
Shooting Woes Hurt Seattle in Loss to In-State Foe
The headline says it all. Seattle shot 33.9 percent from the field and hit just one 3-pointer on the night. Shooting 1-15 from beyond the arc is not a recipe for success in a road contest. About the one hitting anything was guard Terrell Brown who scored a team-high 24 points. But even Brown wasn’t very efficient as he was 10-24 from the field and 0-1 from 3-point land.
If you want to know how bad the shooting was, this might tell the story. Seattle had just four assists on 20 made baskets. The ball got stuck a lot and it hurt the RedHawks. Seattle also lost the rebounding battle. Washington State pulled down 50 rebounds, 19 offensively while Seattle pulled down 39 boards.
It was all about the shooting, though. Had Seattle not gone 13-19 from the free throw line, it could have been even worse. In the second half, the RedHawks got to the free throw line 17 times, making 12. And like the tweet from head coach Jim Hayford, Seattle will use this loss to get better.
We let one another down tonight. Congrats to the Cougars. We will use this to get better. pic.twitter.com/rj5DafqwxY
— Jim Hayford (@CoachHayford) November 8, 2019
Seattle doesn’t get a lot of time to think about this loss. The RedHawks host another in-state foe and Hayford’s former school, Eastern Washington, on Saturday night in Seattle.
Lack of Size Hurts Grand Canyon in Loss to Illinois
Grand Canyon head coach Dan Majerle said his team was one of the smallest in the WAC. Against Big Ten Conference foe Illinois on Friday night, that lack of size was evident.
Illinois 7-footer dominated the paint with a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double. The Illini out-rebounded the Lopes, 52-26, and had 20 offensive boards in the contest. It was so bad that at one point in the first half, Illinois had more offensive boards than GCU had total rebounds.
It was a much better effort by the ‘Lopes compared to the season opener on Tuesday. GCU shot the ball better at 44.3 percent from the field. The ‘Lopes also hit eight 3-pointers in the contest.
But the rebounding was a killer. And with big man Alessandro Lever in foul trouble the entire night, it made it even worse. Lever did finish in double figures with 12 points but only played 16 minutes. Preseason All-WAC selection Carlos Johnson struggled with just five points on 2-10 shooting. Isiah Brown had another solid night with 18 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. finished in double figures with 12 points.
GCU did force 17 turnovers but that isn’t enough to overcome such a rebounding deficit. Add in the fact that Illinois outscored the ‘Lopes 44-32 in the paint to show the disadvantage the ‘Lopes are at size-wise.
Next up for Grand Canyon is a trip to Southern California to take on Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State in Viejas Arena on Nov. 13.