Grand Canyon Drops Home Conference Opener to Rival New Mexico State

Grand Canyon’s shooting struggles were prominent in its 70-59 home loss to New Mexico State, which ended their eight-game winning streak against Western Athletic Conference teams.

“We just can’t score,” GCU Head Coach Dan Majerle said after the game. “We try every play, every shot, we just, guys missing layups, we run a play we get a wide open layup and we miss it.”

The Lopes got off to an extremely slow start to open the first half on both ends of the floor. Aggies senior guard Zach Lofton was too much to handle. He had 25 of his team’s 50 points in the first 26 minutes of play.

“Lofton has the ability to get off but we didn’t guard him the way we were supposed to guard him,” Majerle said.

NMSU had a 27-17 lead early until Keonta Vernon’s put-back dunk gave GCU the spark they desperately needed. They got into the bonus with 7 minutes left, closing the gap at the free throw line.

“Keonta is a tough kid,” Majerle said. “I’ve said all along he’s a tough kid. He’s one guy that I know will compete.”

Vernon finished the night with 12 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double of the season but the rest of the team failed to step it up.

“I just tell them all the time that I need more performance out of our players,” Majerle added. “Josh, it’s time. Casey, it’s time. Oscar, had a terrible night, it’s time.”

The Lopes put together a nice run to close the first half to tie the game at 37.

Vernon followed up on his miss to score and gave GCU its first lead of the game less than three minutes into the second half but after five minutes, the Lopes went cold and missed 10 consecutive baskets. The Aggies took the lead with nine straight points.

Oscar Frayer hit a three to get the game within striking distance but NMSU had too much fire power and out-rebounded GCU 50-to-25.

“When you get out-rebounded 15-25 on your own floor something’s wrong,” Majerle said. “They were a lot tougher than we were, played better than we were and hopefully that’s a wake up call for everyone.”

The Lopes went on a 6-minute drought to close the game until Josh Braun hit a pair of free throws. He only had 15 points, going 4-of-9 from the field. For the Aggies, Lofton finished the night on 8-of-15 shooting with 29 points.

New Mexico State outscored GCU 32-9 to close the game, shooting 46 percent from the field but committed 18 turnovers, however, they had just six after the break. The Lopes had just seven turnovers but shot 34 percent from the field in front of a sold-out GCU Arena for White Out Night. The crowd of 7,521 set a record.

The Lopes (11-6, 1-1) have a short turnaround as they’re set to host UT Rio Grande Valley (10-8, 2-0) on Saturday night.

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Grand Canyon University schedule