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Grand Canyon Shoots the Lights Out in a 96-80 Win Over William Jessup

The Grand Canyon Antelopes men’s basketball team extended their winning streak to four games after a 96-80 win over the William Jessup Warriors on a Tuesday night at GCU Arena.

Offensively, the Lopes came out according to plan, shooting 65.4 percent and assisting on 29 of 34 field goals, but it was their defense that head coach Dan Majerle wasn’t happy about. GCU came in averaging 88 points per game during their four game win streak.

Defensively, the Lopes had been the top 3 point shooting defense in the country as of last week and were high up in many other categories on the defensive end. William Jessup junior guard Luis Medearis and senior wing Keith Phillips torched GCU for a combined 33 points on 14-21 shooting.

“I guess we took tonight off in playing defense,” Majerle said. “Very disappointing. Talked about it before the game how we were ranked nationally defensively, how good we’ve been playing defensively this is a chance to take a step forward and keep the momentum, but we took four steps backward last night.”

The Warriors finished the game shooting 45 percent from the field and only committed 9 turnovers. Majerle blames the seniors for their lack of defensive effort and rebounding.

“Our seniors have to step up,” Majerle said. “Casey (Benson) was awful in the first half, Josh (Braun) had 22 points, had 0 rebounds, didn’t guard this podium. Keonta (Vernon) shouldn’t have even dressed. That’s very disappointing that our three seniors came out with a game like that.”

On the bright side, Braun got his shot going early. He went 3-of-5 from downtown and finished the first half with 11 points but GCU was only up by 3.

Braun finished the game shooting 4-of-8 from the three-point line and totaled 22 in all. He was a huge reason why the Lopes had one of their best 3-point shooting nights of the season, taking a 15-point lead in less than 10 minutes of the second half.

Casey Benson stepped it up in the second half recording his first career double-double and finished the game with 12 points, 10 boards and 0 turnovers. The senior grad transfer from Oregon has now totaled 26 assists and just 1 turnover in his last three games.

But it was freshman forward, Alessandro Lever, who played big for the Lopes. The reigning WAC Player of the Week scored 25 points in 28 minutes, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe.

“I feel more confident in offense the last three games,” said Lever. “You can see I score more and feel more comfortable in the offense.”

Lever has improved his scoring from 6 points per game to 26 points over the last three games and is shooting 69 percent (29/42) over that time. He has scored 20 or more points each of those three games.

While his offense is taking off, he admits the lackadaisical defense stemmed from the team thinking that William Jessup would be a cakewalk. He knows he needs to step it up.

“I need to play better defense,” Lever said. “We didn’t play defense. Maybe we just thought the game was easy to win. They beat us every time to score.”

Grand Canyon (15-6, 4-1) hits the road to resume conference play to take on Utah Valley (15-6, 4-1) with sole possession of second place in the WAC on the line. The Wolverines have won 8 of their last 9 games. A win keeps the Lopes in striking distance of first place New Mexico State in the conference race.