Ray Harrison was not voted as the WAC Player of the Year by the coaches.
Perhaps that was motivation to show the coaches they got it wrong. Maybe, the motivation came from knowing a loss means the end of the season.
Whatever it was, Ray Harrison used it on Tuesday at Michelob Ultra Arena.
Harrison had a game-high 30 points to help GCU survive and advance with an 82-77 win over UT Arlington.
“Really impressed with Arlington,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. They’re guys played hard. Really proud of our team. It’s been a week of us getting better and kind of catching a rhythm this last week of season especially the two road games. These two are a big reason why. I think they’ve played really well together.”
Catching a rhythm is right, especially for Ray Harrison.
Harrison averaged 22.0 points in a pair of wins to end the regular season.
That rhythm continued in the WAC Tournament opener.
Harrison knocked down his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, at the 16:16 mark. Two minutes later, Harrison knocked down another 3-pointer to push the GCU lead to 11.
UT Arlington responded with an 8-0 run featuring a Brandyn Talbot 3-pointer. Chance McMillian stopped the run with a driving layup with 10:54 to play in the half.
McMillian’s 3-pointer with 5:55 left in the half gave GCU a 10-point lead. But, UT Arlington wouldn’t go away. Brandyn Talbot hit a 3-pointer and Kyron Gibson hit a jumper to cut the deficit to five.
“Really fun to see the progression of Chance and Ray throughout the year,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. “They’re both sophomore guards that are logging a lot of minutes, scoring a lot of points, and have a big load for our team with what they’re doing.”
Cutting the deficit to single digits was the name of the game the entire night.
GCU looked to be running away with a win. And UT Arlington would respond.
Harrison scored GCU’s first six points of the second half as GCU led 40-33 with 17:19 to play.
Following a Brandyn Talbot 3-pointer that cut the deficit to four, GCU responded.
A 6-0 run highlighted by a trio of free throws from Walt Ellis pushed the lead back to 10.
Chance McMillian’s 3-pointer with 6:58 to play gave GCU its largest lead at 14.
Things stayed that way until Brandyn Talbot hit a 3-pointer with 2:49 to play to cut the deficit to single digits.
Unfortunately for Maverick fans, the Mavericks were unable to get any closer than four points. A big reason for that was GCU hit free throws down the stretch to win the ball game.
“Tough,” UTA interim head coach Snoop Johnson said. “You never want it to end. Just appreciate these young men. Appreciate them. Tough situation. They made a tough situation fun.”
GCU went 7-8 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the 82-77 win.
Along with Harrison, Chance McMillian was in double figures with 18 points. Gabe McGlothan was also in double figures for GCU with 15 points. With the win, GCU advances to face 4-seed Seattle U on Thursday at Orleans Arena. The Redhawks swept the season series with the Lopes.
Kyron Gibson led UT Arlington with 17 points. Marion Humphrey and Brandyn Talbot both finished with 15 points. The Mavericks finish their first season in the WAC 11-21 overall.