GCU head coach Molly Miller and her Lopes have been having one of their best seasons in recent memory.
After blowing out Columbia College (Mo.) 97-39, GCU’s next opponent was the Vandals of the University of Idaho.
Going into the game, everyone expected it to be a close one. However, most probably didn’t think it would be as close as it was.
It came down to buzzer-beaters at the end of regulation and overtime. Unfortunately for GCU, Dom Phillips’ final 3-point shot to send it to double-overtime was just late, and Idaho left the desert with an 81-78 win.
Four different Lopes ended with double-digit points, including Sydney Palma leading the way with 20.
It was a hard-fought battle until the very end. So, let’s take a look at how it went down.
A Tale of Two Halves
If you only watched the first half of this one, you’d be shocked to learn the Lopes would end up losing.
Although they started down 7-0, GCU didn’t take this lightly and quickly caught back up and then some. After the first quarter ended tied at 12, the Lopes took over in the second period.
Not only did they score consistently, shooting 44 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line, but their defense held the Vandals to just 13 points during that quarter.
Going into halftime, the Lopes led 35-25.
The third quarter saw Idaho catch up in a hurry. At multiple points during the third quarter, the difference between the teams was just one point.
However, the Lopes were able to hang onto their lead, going into the fourth leading 54-47.
Everyone in GCU Arena was pretty confident about how it would end. But they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Palma with her 20th point of the night!
Lopes within one in OT. pic.twitter.com/qVWqdJnOM7
— GCU Women's Basketball (@GCU_WBB) December 18, 2022
Heartbreaker at Home
The fourth quarter was some of the most intense basketball I’ve ever seen.
With 7:54 left to play, Idaho’s Rosa Smith sank a fastbreak 3-pointer. This gave the Vandals their first lead since the beginning of the game.
However, the Lopes took back their lead just 30 seconds later thanks to a Tiarra Brown layup and would hold on to this lead throughout the fourth quarter.
With just 39 seconds left in regulation, the score was 72-66.
Tiana Johnson made it a 3-point game with a shot behind the arc assisted by Rosa Smith. She was fouled but missed the free throw that would have made it a four-point play.
Johnson then forced a jump ball at the other end. The possession arrow favored the Vandals with 9.8 seconds to go. Sydney Vandy then took a shot over Evan Zars from way behind the arc and tied things up to send it to overtime.
Overtime saw more back-and-forth basketball.
The score was 79-78 with 18.3 seconds left and the Lopes had an opportunity to take the lead.
Evan Zars dribbled the ball off of her foot out of bounds while trying to drive toward to hoop.
Sydney Gandy was then fouled and sank both free throws, making the score 81-78.
With 9.5 seconds left, the Lopes were out of timeouts and had to go the length of the floor to try and score. Dom Phillips missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game. But, GCU was able to get the rebound and force the jump ball with 1.3 seconds to play.
Dom Phillips again took a 3-pointer, this time making it, but it was just after the buzzer. 81-78 was the final score as the Lopes fell for just the second time this season.
Despite the loss, GCU looked solid overall.
Palma, Evans, Phillips, and Zars all scored 10 points or more. The Lopes also had 40 rebounds, just three fewer than the much taller Idaho squad.
However, once again, the Lopes found themselves struggling to make free throws.
Despite starting the day shooting 80 percent from the line, they would end up going 12-24.
In both of their losses this season, every point was crucial down the stretch. If they had shot just 67 percent from the line, which would still not be great, they would have won this game.
Against Arizona State, they shot a very ugly 36.8 percent from the line.
As of December 21st, the Lopes are dead last in free throw percentage in the WAC. This is unfortunately becoming a trend for this squad, and it is something they need to clean up before conference play begins.