There was a time early on in the 2022-23 season when GCU guard Rayshon Harrison was struggling.
The rhythm wasn’t there. Adjusting to playing in a new city with a new team were taking longer than perhaps expected. And there was some digging deep that had to be done.
Those thoughts and struggles seem so long ago. Especially after Thursday night. Because whatever struggles there were early on, were not on display at in a big time opportunity on Thursday night.
Harrison had a game-high 28 points to lead the Lopes to a gutsy 72-68 overtime road win over Sam Houston at Johnson Coliseum.
In a slow-moving first half, things looked bleak for GCU. Sam Houston’s defense was creating problems and not allowing any easy buckets. Add in that Jovan Blacksher Jr. injured his right ankle attacking the basket with 9:18 to play. And there was even more pressure on Harrison and the Lopes.
In fact, a lot of people felt that from that point on, Sam Houston was going to roll.
When Jovan Blacksher Jr. went down in the first half with another ankle injury, I will admit, I thought Sam Houston was going to roll…
But Rayshon Harrison told me ever so quietly to… pic.twitter.com/BnMSFaTECU
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) January 6, 2023
And as the first half went on, it appeared that way. Donte Powers’ 3-pointer with 5:25 pushed the Sam Houston lead to 10. And a pair of Qua Grant free throws pushed the lead back to nine after Gabe McGlothan had converted a 3-point play.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Kobe Knox and Noah Baumann cut the deficit to five with two minutes to play.
But, Sam Houston responded. Qua Grant scored five straight points to push the Bearkat lead to 10.
However, Ray Harrison got some momentum going into the halftime break, hitting a layup with one second left to make it an 8-point game at the break.
A quick 5-0 run out of the break cut the deficit to three.
But, the Bearkats responded with a 7-3 run to push the lead back to seven with 14:28 to play. Lamar Wilkerson’s layup with 11:55 to play pushed the Bearkat lead to nine.
But, the Lopes just wouldn’t go away. Noah Baumann knocked down a 3-pointer, and a Kobe Knox layup cut the deficit to three with 7:38 to play.
When Tristan Ikpe hit two free throws with 4:21 to play to make it 53-44, it looked like the Bearkats were on their way to a home win.
But, an 11-2 run over the next three minutes and change, capped by a Ray Harrison layup, tied the game at 55 with 1:02 to play.
Jaden Ray’s floater with 36 seconds to play gave the Bearkats a 57-55 lead.
On the ensuing possession, with the ball in his hands, coming off a Gabe McGlothan screen, Harrison got in the paint and as he was going up, got fouled by Cam Huefner.
Harrison knocked down a pair of free throws to tie it at 57 with 26 seconds to play.
26 seconds was enough for Sam Houston to get a final look. And it was a great final look at a bucket. Qua Grant went to his left and had a look that rolled off the right side of the rim.
Free basketball was coming in Huntsville.
And Harrison took over. The Presbyterian transfer scored five straight points to open the period. Harrison hit another free throw with 2:10 left to make it 66-61.
But, the biggest moment of the overtime period may have come with 1:39 to play.
After getting a stop on the defensive end, Noah Baumann was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. Baumann calmly knocked down all three free throws to push the lead to eight. And the Lopes held on for the 72-68 Quad I win over the Bearkats.
Baumann was the only other Lope, along with Harrison, in double figures with 11 points.
Qua Grant led Sam Houston with 26 points. Cam Huefner was the only other Bearkat in double figures with 11 points.
The Lopes improve to 11-4 overall and 2-0 in WAC play. Sam Houston falls to 11-4 overall and 1-2 in WAC play.
GCU heads to Nacogdoches to take on Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Sam Houston hosts Tarleton on Saturday afternoon in Huntsville.