Winning conference games on the road is difficult. But, for whatever reason, on Thursday night in the WAC, that wasn’t the case. Three out of four teams won road contests. Compare Thursday night’s success with last week’s road struggles and it’s kind of baffling. Chicago State, Kansas City and Utah Valley went 0-5 on the road last week.
This week, Thursday started with a bang. CSU Bakersfield won on the road in overtime. New Mexico State beat up on Utah Valley in Orem. And Grand Canyon got its first WAC win, on the road at Chicago State. The lone road loss was UTRGV’s loss at Seattle.
Here is a little breakdown of each game.
CSU Bakersfield 74, Kansas City 64 – Overtime
CSU Bakersfield captain Justin Edler-Davis exploded for a career-high 25 points in the Roadrunners’ win. And 13 of those 25 points came in the overtime period. It is the type of breakout performance head coach Rod Barnes knew was coming.
“Justin has put in the work,” Barnes said after the game. “It was a huge effort from him. He stayed positive the whole game. That’s the leadership we’ve been looking for and we got it at the right time tonight.”
CSU Bakersfield started the game 9-9 from the field and led by 14 midway through the first half. Kansas City found its offensive groove and cut the deficit to seven at halftime.
The Roos began the second half on an 11-0 run and took a 56-54 lead with just over a minute to play. But Shawn Stith hit a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime. And in the overtime period, Edler-Davis scored 13 of the Roadrunners 18 points to help CSU Bakersfield to the big road win.
Grand Canyon 78, Chicago State 64
Alessandro Lever, Carlos Johnson and Mikey Dixon accounted for 73 percent of the GCU scoring in the Lopes first conference win. Lever tied his career-high with 25 points. Dixon played the best game of his GCU career with 17 points and Johnson had 15 points in the win.
“By any means necessary, we had to win and we needed it,” GCU head coach Dan Majerle said. “I went in at halftime and said, ‘Good job, we shared the ball and we’re up by 20.’ I said let’s go out in the second half and beat them by 20 again and we lose by six. that’s one of the reasons why we’re struggling right now. We’ve got to have a killer mentality. We got the win and I’m happy but we’ve got to play a lot better.”
Majerle is talking about the fact that Chicago State shot nearly 57 percent in the second half. Despite the Cougars shooting such a high percentage, the deficit was just too much to overcome.
But, for now, a win is a win for a GCU team that had high expectations coming into 2019-20.
New Mexico State 70, Utah Valley 56
New Mexico State went on an 18-1 run midway through the second half to pull away from Utah Valley on Thursday night. WAC Player of the Year candidate Trevelin Queen had a game-high 17 points. But, Queen also exited the game in the second half with what appears to be a sprained knee. Head coach Chris Jans said after the game that he was told there appears to be no structural damage so hoping it’s a sprain or something where Queen can get back on the floor quickly.
New Mexico State hit 11 3-pointers in the win and senior guard Terrell Brown is starting to heat up. After a season-high 18 points on Saturday, Brown had 17 points on Thursday and hit four 3-pointers.
“It feels awesome,” New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans said regarding Terrell Brown’s shooting. “It feels like he’s back. People that have watched us the last couple of years know what kind of player he is. Certainly high expectations for him as a senior … that groin injury really created some havoc in his body and threw him off … Since we’ve been back from Christmas, he’s been playing at the level we expected him to … it’s a really good feeling. I’m happy for him … and hopefully he’ll continue playing at that level.”
Isaiah White had a double-double for Utah Valley with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Casdon Jardine was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 10 points. It is the second straight game that Utah Valley has failed to scored 60-plus points. In fact, it took nearly 35 minutes for the Wolverines to break the 50-point plateau in the loss. On Saturday at Seattle, it took Utah Valley almost 37 minutes to break the 40-point plateau.
Seattle 91, UTRGV 74
After losing its WAC opener in triple overtime at Kansas City, Seattle has found its groove. On Thursday night at the Redhawk Center, Seattle made sure there wouldn’t be a road win at its expense.
Seattle hit 13 3-pointers en route to a big win over UTRGV. In the battle between one-loss WAC teams, Seattle got a huge effort from Morgan Means who finished with a game-high 22 points. Myles Carter had a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double and Riley Grigsby finished with 15 points in the win.
Perhaps the biggest stat that helped Seattle pick up its third straight win is the lack of turnovers. The Redhawks only committed eight turnovers in the contest against a UTRGV team that forces nearly 18 turnovers per game.
“UTRGV is a really good team, they force a ton of turnovers,” Seattle head coach Jim Hayford said. “What I really love is our guys keeping their composure.”
Seattle was 13-24 from beyond the 3-point line and shot nearly 49 percent from the field in the win.
“Everything’s a whole lot prettier when at the end of every good play, someone’s got to make shots and we’re making shots,” Hayford said.
Seattle’s win coupled with New Mexico State’s win over Utah Valley set the stage for a big game on Saturday night at the Redhawk Center. First place in the WAC standings is up for grabs.