GAME NOTES: Despite not being allowed to take part in their conference tournament this season, the Antelopes of Grand Canyon are still hitting the hardwood in late March as they host the Pacific Tigers in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Because the program is making the transition to Division I status, the Antelopes were excluded from the Western Athletic Conference Tournament even after finishing third in the league standings with a record of 10-6. Directed by first-time head coach and Phoenix Suns legend Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon was 15-14 on the campaign overall and won its regular-season finale versus Texas- Pan American in overtime back on March 8 by a score of 79-78.
Meanwhile, the Tigers split their 30 games down the middle as they tried to fit in with the rest of the West Coast Conference after making the move from the Big West. The program finished in the bottom third of the standings with just six wins in 18 chances, but at least the non-conference schedule was more favorable. Pacific was immediately ushered out of the WCC Tournament on March 6 by Santa Clara in an 81-64 final.
This is the third time that Pacific has been chosen to take part in this event, producing a record of 5-2 in tourneys held in 2009 and 2010. In the most recent appearance for the Tigers, they defeated Loyola Marymount (86-76) in the first round, topped Northern Colorado in the quarterfinals (63-59) and then took down Appalachian State (64-56) in the semifinals before bowing to Missouri State in the title game (78-65) four years ago.
The winner of this first-ever meeting will be back in action in the second round versus an opponent to be determined.
Scoring a solid 72.5 ppg over the course of 30 games, the Tigers enlisted the help of three double-digit performers to keep them competitive, even as the squad allowed 74.6 ppg on the season. Tony Gill took top billing with his 11.2 ppg, playing just under 26 minutes per game as he also pulled down a team-best 5.8 rpg. Andrew Bock and Sama Taku were responsible for 11.0 ppg apiece, although both players hovered around 40 percent shooting from the floor for the year. But not only were Bock and Taku essential to the bottom line in the scoring column because of their own efforts to put the ball in the basket, they also combined to hand out five assists per contest to try and keep the rest of the unit operating.
Early on in the season, the Antelopes seemed to have their offense hitting on all cylinders, against some sub par competition of course, but the loss of Demetrius Walker (16.9 ppg) to disciplinary issues after he appeared in only nine games, shook up Grand Canyon quite a bit. What remained was Killian Larson as the top overall point producer with 17.1 ppg, as he shot 53.5 percent from the floor. Not only is Larson a scoring threat, he is also one of the nation's top rebounders with 11.6 rpg and yet the team as a whole is beating opponents by just 1.5 rpg. Jerome Garrison, who like Larson has started every game, checks in with another 16.6 ppg, even though he has converted just 29.4 percent beyond the arc. Daniel Alexander, who filled in his stat line in the last outing with 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots, is another valuable asset with his 12.3 ppg.
With a couple of explosive scorers, one of whom is also a dominating force on the glass, the 'Lopes have more than a good chance of advancing beyond the first round of this tournament.
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