My preview for this game frankly did not age well. The big story going into this game was that it would be Sydney Palma’s first game against her former squad, CBU. Unfortunately, Palma’s knee injury suffered against UVU kept her out of this New Year’s Eve battle.
Despite that, GCU held on to get a 70-60 win in what was a close game throughout.
There were other great stories, though. Although brief, CBU guard Trinity San Antonio made her return. San Antonio has not played since before Thanksgiving due to a hamstring injury. Seeing her back in action is a huge sigh of relief for Lancer fans.
Another player making a return in this one was Naudia Evans. With 25 points in just 24 minutes, she couldn’t tell she had just missed a game due to injury.
Obviously, alot happened in this one. So let’s break it down.
Defense is the Best Offense
Parts of the first half were pretty hard to watch if you’re a fan of high-scoring games. After shooting 41 percent in the first quarter, CBU’s offense seemingly disappeared in the second. The Lancers went 2-13 from the field in the second quarter, including 0-6 from deep.
GCU’s offense wasn’t great either. In the first two periods, the Lopes shot around 27 and 38 percent from the field. GCU also couldn’t buy a shot from deep, going 3-13 in the first half.
You have to credit the defenses of both of these teams for why the shooting was so bad in this first half. Both sides were consistently closing out shots, getting steals, and forcing turnovers. It was truly a defensive battle, and this low-scoring half ended 28-23 in favor of the Lopes.
Back and Better Than Ever
Going into the game, Naudia Evans was a game-time decision after not playing in the Lopes’ double-overtime loss at Utah Valley. In hindsight, what a great decision it was to let her play.
After a solid second-quarter performance, Evans continued putting on a show in the second half, offensively. In the fourth quarter alone, Evans hit trio of 3-pointers, totaling five on the game in eight attempts. She seemingly couldn’t miss, making shots from everywhere on the floor.
Evans ended up with a career-high 25 points, three rebounds, one assist, and one rebound. After the game, she said she was determined to get the win because GCU has never been on a four-game losing streak in the Molly Miller Era. She also cited Sydney Palma being benched against her former team as even more fuel to her fire.
Keep on Keeping On
Despite the loss, CBU has a ton of positives to take out of this game. As I mentioned, their star Trinity San Antonio is back. Even though she didn’t do much in this game due to a minutes restriction, knowing she’s ready for a comeback is a huge relief for this squad. Prior to her injury, San Antonio was averaging over 19 points per game. If she can get back to that level of play, CBU is extremely dangerous.
Another positive was the play of freshman Grace Schmidt. She led the Lancers with 16 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Much like San Antonio was last season, Schmidt is a standout freshman with a ton of potential to lead CBU for many years to come.
The now 5-8 Lancers head to Seattle Thursday to take on the Redhawks.
For GCU, knowing Naudia Evans and the other guards can make do without Palma is a huge relief for both fans and the team. The Lopes also, at least for the moment, seem to have solved their issues at the free throw line.
Going into Saturday, the Lopes were dead last in the conference for free-throw percentage. However, against CBU, they shot just under 80 percent. If they can stay consistent like this from the line, it will really help them in close games. And this season, that kind of consistency would have won them multiple games already.
The Lopes play host this Thursday as they take on Tarleton.