The GCU men’s basketball team has been to every WAC Tournament semifinals since becoming eligible for the tournament in 2017-18. Gabe McGlothan made sure that streak continued on Thursday afternoon.
McGlothan had a career-high 35 points to lead GCU to an 84-79 win over Seattle U at Orleans Arena.
With the win, GCU advances to face 1-seed Sam Houston in Friday’s semifinals.
Two of the WAC’s best took the floor Thursday afternoon inside the Orleans Arena. As the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds nonetheless, but fans were destined for a show regardless of the new WAC Resume Tourney Seeding system.
No. 4 Seattle like many teams in the WAC, has had ups and downs this season. The increased competition in conference play has taken teams like the Redhawks from league-leading positions to scrapping for a top-5 finish.
While No. 5 Grand Canyon has been without their senior leader and floor general Jovan Blacksher since January. Blacksher suffered a season-ending knee injury, forcing his teammates to adjust their approach for the rest of conference play.
But this is March, anything can happen and anyone can be beaten. Thursday was a testament to that, as a true tale of two halves took this one down to the wire.
Seattle’s backcourt duo of Cameron Tyson and Alex Schumacher combined for 22 first half points (including 7-7 from the free throw line) to lead the Redhawks to the 36-29 lead entering halftime. Grand Canyon struggled, trailing from almost the first tip onward.
However, GCU kept the deficit to single digits with the help of Gabe McGlothan. The 6-7 combo forward dropped 16 points, going 6-10 from the floor and making 3-4 from the free throw line.
The Lopes came out of the locker rooms after halftime swinging. McGlothan sparked an 8-2 Grand Canyon run, including draining back-to-back 3-pointers. Grand Canyon secured its first lead of the ball game (39-38) with a McGlothan 3-pointer with 17:30 to play.
It was enough for Chris Victor to call a timeout to try and get things under control. That didn’t work. The Lopes went on a 13-0 scoring run before Cameron Tyson scored two of his 15 second-half points to end GCU’s run.
Things slowed down around the 14:00 minute mark, going back to a back and forth shooting contest. Bryce Drew’s side held strong, fending off several Redhawk advances with baskets of their own.
Even with Seattle going on a 5-0 run of their own, McGlothan sank a fadeaway jumper to crack the 60-point seal.
Seattle was able to shrink the Lopes lead to two at the 8:30 mark. However, McGlothan’s fourth 3-pointer of the day was good from the corner.
The Redhawks are a well-coached team. However, you can’t analyze and adjust to a player having a career night in Las Vegas in March.
Freshman guard Kobe Knox sparked a 4-0 run with back-to-back dunks, including an alley-oop from near half-court followed by a fast break, one-handed throw down. On the next GCU possession, Lopes fans went crazy for yet another McGlothan 3-pointer. It gave GCU its largest lead of the game at 71-58.
— Grand Canyon Men’s Basketball (@GCU_MBB) March 10, 2023
However, the Redhawks fought on. Seattle U cut Grand Canyon’s lead down to six (72-66) bordering the 3:00 minute mark.
Walt Ellis extended the GCU lead with another corner three in front of the Lopes bench. However, Cam Tyson ran down the floor to answer with his own 3-pointer.
A Tyson 3-point attempt with about .45 seconds left to go in this close one swirled in and right back out. GCU came down with the rebound, forcing Seattle U to foul.
It put the WAC Hoops Digest Player of the Year Ray Harrison at the free throw line on the other end. Harrison showed up the rest of the way and was clutch at the charity stripe to keep his squad in the lead.
Riley Grigsby played on and drew a foul on the other end. However, Grigsby struggled to capitalize on the free ones all afternoon. Heading to the line with 14.4 seconds left on the clock, Grigsby hit one of two free throws.
With the 78-74 lead Chance McMillan went back to the line after a corner inbound play that left the senior trapped in the corner.
A last-second poster by Riley Grigsby over Yves Ouedraogo was entertaining to watch. Unfortunately for the Redhawks, it was too little too late. Grigsby followed it up with a last second heave from near half-court and it went in.
With about three seconds on the clock, a small bit of hope on the Seattle sideline was in the air. But two more free throws by Harrison sealed the deal,.
Gabe McGlothan ended the night with a dazzling double-double performance. A game-high and career-high 35 points (19 scored in the second half), 10 rebounds off of 65% (13-20) shooting from the field and 55.5% (5-9) from beyond the arc.
Simply put, Grand Canyon’s season ends Thursday afternoon without the outburst had by the Gilbert, AZ native.
Cameron Tyson led Seattle with 27 points, four rebounds and one assist but struggled making shots in the second half. Most of Tyson’s points came from the free throw line (12-13), surpassing the 1,000 point mark in a Redhawks’ uniform in the process. He was joined in the double digits by Alex Schumacher (14 points) and Riley Grigsby (15).
This quarterfinal matchup had all the makings of a championship game. A supportive student section, resiliency from both squads who knew this could be their last game of the season. And a celebratory Lopes team, advancing to the semifinals but with a swagger you only see in March.
That semifinal matchup between Grand Canyon and Sam Houston is scheduled to tip-off at 6:00 PM PT/8:00 PM CT
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.