Opening Night
Leonard Bishop picked up the first win of his head coaching career as SFA won its season opener. Courtesy SFA Athletics.

WBB Opening Night: GCU Comeback, CBU Dominant and an In-State Win

Opening Night or Day, whichever you choose, was quite a wild ride around the WAC. There were the obvious big wins over non-Division I teams. And some thrilling wins over Division I teams. It was a nice mixture of all aspects.

The preseason favorites had a dramatic Opening Night win. Another team won an in-state game. Actually, for the record, two teams won in-state games. And the WAC got off to a fantastic start.

Stephen F. Austin, Utah Tech, Abilene Christian, and Tarleton all won comfortably against non-Division I opponents.

Against Division I opponents, WAC teams went 3-1 with two of those three wins coming down to the wire.

In the loss, UT Arlington battled valiantly on the road at South Florida but fell by 15.

Let’s break down a busy opening night across the WAC with regard to Division I games.

Grand Canyon 55  St. Mary’s 52:

For much of their opener on Monday night in Phoenix, a win was not looking good as Grand Canyon, the preseason WAC regular season favorite and No. 18 in this week’s mid-major poll, found themselves down by double digits. Then, the fourth quarter came. GCU scored 22 unanswered points to open their 2023-24 season with a win at GCU Arena on Naudia Evans’ 3-pointer as time expired.

St. Mary’s outshot the Lopes 48% to 38%, was -2 on the glass, and committed 23 turnovers in Jeff Cammon’s debut as Gaels head coach. Zeryhia Aoukuso had 17 points with five rebounds to lead the Gales while Hannah Rapp added 10 points and three rebounds.

Naudia Evans finished with a team-high 15 points with all 15 points coming from 3-point range in the win. Trinity San Antonio, in her Lopes debut, had 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. St. Mary’s was picked to finish sixth in the WCC preseason polls. On Saturday, the Lopes will hit the road and visit North Dakota in their first road trip of the year.

California Baptist 64, UC San Diego 50: 

CBU, picked to finish third in this year’s preseason coaches poll, opened up the year in La Jolla against a transitioning Tritons program and led for much of the way in a 14-point win. Grace Schmidt, a Preseason First Team All-WAC selection, had 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Lancers.

In their Lancer debut, Khloe Lemon added 12 points on three of six shooting from 3-point range while Anayiah Tu’ua chipped in 10 points and five assists. UC San Diego was picked to finish tied for fifth in the Big West.

South Florida 76, UT Arlington 61:

In Tampa, the Lady Mavs battled an American Athletic Conference foe on opening night but fell by double digits. Avery Brittingham had 16 points and seven rebounds while Taliyah Clark added 10 points while hitting a pair of 3-pointers  as the pair made their UT Arlington debuts. Also in double digits for the Lady Mavs was Hannah Humphreys who was 4-6 from beyond the arc for 12 points. Former WAC foe Lamar visits the College Park Center on Friday. South Florida is the preseason pick to win the American Athletic Conference.

Utah Valley 56, Weber State 55: 

In Orem, the Wolverines opened 2023-24 on a winning note behind a gritty defensive effort which included 20 steals and 27 total forced turnovers. Ally Criddle led the charge with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Also in double digit scoring for Utah Valley were Kaylee Byon, who scored 11 points and was a perfect 2-2 from 3-point range. Portland transfer Liana Kaitu’u also added 10 points on 5-8 from the field in her UVU debut. Weber State was picked to finish tenth in the Big Sky (last place).

Upcoming Games: 

Tuesday, November 7-

  • UTRGV at Texas Tech 6:00 P.M. CT

Wednesday, November 8-

  • Eastern Washington at Southern Utah 6:30 P.M. MT

Thursday, November 9-

  • Seattle at CSU Northridge 6:00 P.M. PT
  • Jacksonville State at Utah Tech 7:00 P.M. MT
  • Rice at Abilene Christian 7:00 P.M. CT

Friday, November 10-

  • Lamar at UT Arlington 5:00 P.M. CT
  • California Baptist at San Diego State 6 P.M. PT
  • Liberty at Stephen F. Austin 6:30 P.M. CT
  • Western Kentucky at Southern Utah 6:30 P.M. MT
  • Florida International at UTRGV 6:30 P.M. CT
  • Tarleton State at Texas Tech 7:00 P.M. CT

Saturday, November 11-

  • Seattle at UC Irvine 2 P.M. PT
  • Grand Canyon at North Dakota 6:00 P.M. MT


About the author

Derryl Trujillo

Derryl Trujillo is a Southern California based sportswriter who won the 2019 Inland Empire Baseball Coaches Association's Supporter of the Year award. He joined the WAC Hoops Digest staff in 2020 and also covers local sports for Inland Sports and the Valley News. Before transitioning to media Derryl was a high school, collegiate and club volleyball official along with serving as a high school basketball scorekeeper for ten years.

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