Lopes Rebound Big Against the Roos En Route to a 79-62 Victory

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Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle opened the press conference with a big smile. He was certainly pleased with his teams’ performance Thursday night especially when it came to rebounding.

GCU outrebounded UMKC 45-24. Oscar Frayer had a career-high 13 boards. The Lopes are outrebounding opponents by 13.7 over the past six games.

The increase in rebounding is no coincidence. Frayer and company have a whole new motive for attacking the boards.

“We have a new system in place,” Frayer said. “If you don’t crash, you got sprints. So, yeah, definitely trying to crash.”

Majerle has also put emphasis on big performances from his seniors Casey Benson, Josh Braun and Keonta Vernon, and tonight he got what he was looking for.

“It’s about time, Casey,” Majerle said. “But it’s the best he has played. He looked a little bit more aggressive as far as looking at the basket. We just got to build on it. I thought Keonta, those two seniors, Josh hit two big threes in the second half.”

Benson gave the Lopes the spark that led to a 16-4 run to close the first half. He finished the night with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. He did an excellent job looking for his shot, attacking the basket and showing off some spin moves to get around his defenders.

Keonta Vernon finished the game with 18 points on 7/9 shooting after having only 4 last game against Utah Valley. Josh Braun finished with 8 but those two big threes down the stretch in the second half gave the Lopes a lead that the Roos couldn’t catch up to.

Freshman Demari Milstead also added fuel off the bench in the second half. He went 4-of-6 from the field finishing with a career-high 11 points.

“I’m happy for Demari,” Majerle said. “He got some extended minutes, he played really well in the second half. He’s just got to get a little more confident handling the basketball but really good passer, he doesn’t really have any fear, which is good.”

Frayer played with Milstead in high school and enjoyed seeing his teammate take advantage of an opportunity.

“He set the pace of the game a little bit when he came in,” Frayer said. “That’s big coming from a freshman point guard, proud of him.”

Everything was clicking tonight except the defense, again and that’s still something Majerle continues to stress at practice.

“Still can’t guard the basketball,” Majerle said. “We worked on it for three straight days so we’ll work on it again tomorrow, we’ll work on it again Saturday.”

Grand Canyon will put it that extra work on Friday to prepare for Chicago State (2-22, 0-7) at home this Saturday.

After the win tonight, GCU (16-7, 5-2) is in third place in the Western Athletic Conference, not too far behind Utah Valley (5-1) and New Mexico State (6-0).

The automatic NCAA tournament bid will come from the winner of the WAC tournament in Las Vegas, March 7-10.