There was a time GCU guard Ray Harrison was struggling. Struggling to find a rhythm. Struggling to adjust to a new atmosphere. And simply struggling to find efficiency.
Well, that was two months ago.
Now, Harrison has put GCU on his shoulders and said, ‘let’s go!’
The WAC Player of the Year candidate had a career-high 38 points to help GCU hold off Utah Tech, 89-85, at GCU Arena on Wednesday night.
Not only did Harrison score a career-high, he did it in an efficient manner.
Harrison was 13-19 from the field and 7-9 from the 3-point line. Along with the points, Harrison also had six rebounds and four assists.
Most of those 3-pointers came in a first half barrage unlike any seen in 2022-23.
Over a stretch of about four minutes, Harrison went off. Four of his seven 3-pointers came during that four-minute stretch. Harrison’s fourth 3-pointer gave GCU a 19-9 lead with 14:04 to play.
But Utah Tech would not go away.
Isaiah Pope’s 3-pointer with 11:24 left in the first half cut the deficit to five. And following a Josh Baker 3-pointer, Frank Staine knocked down a 3-pointer of his own.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Staine and Noa Gonsalves and a pair of free throws gave Utah Tech a 38-25 lead with 7:20 remaining in the half.
Tanner Christensen’s jumper made it 30-25 and it looked like Utah Tech might shock the Lopes once again.
But, a 13-2 run over the next four minutes gave GCU the lead right back.
However, every time it looked like GCU was going to pull away, Isaiah Pope and Tanner Christensen had an answer.
Pope and Christensen scored the final three points of the half to cut the deficit to four at the break.
And the second half, was just as entertaining as the first half.
After a Jacob Nicolds free throw cut the deficit to two, the teams decided to trade 3-pointers.
First, it was Ray Harrison knocking one down. On the following Utah Tech possession, Nicolds knocked down a perimeter shot. And on the following GCU possession, Josh Baker got in the mix from 3-point land, giving GCU a 47-42 lead.
A similar thing happened just a few minute later.
Nicolds hit another 3-pointer to cut the Trailblazer deficit to three with 15:12 to play. But, Noah Baumann responded with a 3-pointer of his own. However, five straight Utah Tech points capped off by a Frank Staine 3-pointer made it a 1-point game with 14 minutes to play.
That was the story of the night.
GCU would threaten to pull away. But, Utah Tech would respond with scoring runs to stay in the ball game.
Even after Ray Harrison’s 3-pointer with nine minutes to play gave GCU a 70-62 lead, Utah Tech kept coming.
Harrison’s layup with 4:22 to play made it 78-69 and GCU was well on its way to a win.
Even when Harrison and Josh Baker combined to hit four straight free throws with 58 seconds remaining, it looked like the game was well in hand.
Isaiah Pope and the Trailblazers had other ideas.
A quick 7-0 run cut the deficit to two with 25 seconds to play.
And on the following GCU possession, Isaiah Pope forced a GCU turnover.
But, some drama took place inside GCU Arena on the Utah Tech possession.
With a little over 14 seconds to play, Pope found his way around Josh Baker. But, as Pope was trying to maneuver on the baseline, the official called Pope out of bounds.
Lopes lead 85-83 and Trailblazers just forced a turnover to get the ball back.
Is Isaiah Pope out of bounds? You be the judge. pic.twitter.com/nD67XJ3iP4
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) January 19, 2023
Turnover, GCU ball.
Gabe McGlothan proceeded to hit a pair of free throws. And after a Pope bucket made it 87-85, Ray Harrison capped off his career night with a pair of free throws to seal the win.
McGlothan finished with 15 points. Josh Baker and Chance McMillian were also in double figures for the Lopes with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Pope led Utah Tech with 25 points. Frank Staine and Tanner Christensen each finished with 21 points.
GCU improves to 17-6 overall and 7-4 in WAC play. The Lopes host Utah Valley on Saturday.
Utah Tech falls to 12-13 overall and 5-7 in WAC play. The Trailblazers host New Mexico State on Saturday.