Arizona Basketball Beats Grand Canyon in a Sloppy Game in Tucson, GCU fan screams

The Arizona Wildcats beat new in-state rival Grand Canyon University 64-54 in a messy, turnover-filled game in McKale.

Arizona Basketball built a comfortable 16-point lead in the first half but got sloppy finishing the half with 12 turnovers. Grand Canyon settled down and went on a nine-point run while shutting down the Wildcat scoring over the last 5:26 of the half. Midway through the game, the Arizona lead was only 32-25. The Wildcats did shoot 48 percent in the opening half while out-rebounding GCU by six which preserved their lead.

Zona Zealots Contributor Mark Barrera told his followers how he really felt as the first half ended.

Kadeem Allen was on the bench with two fouls, which can be a problem with a seven-man rotation. The Antelopes took advantage as Arizona’s senior guard looked on.

Because the Grand Canyon Antelopes have no fear of any opponent, the Wildcats could not look past them. Earlier this season they lost to current No. 11 Louisville by only 9 points, and beat San Diego State.

They are coached by Phoenix Suns fan-favorite Dan Majerle. So far under Majerle, the ‘Lopes have played Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville, San Diego State twice, and Duke. Playing in McKale is just another day at the office for the team from Phoenix.

The second half didn’t start much better. Both teams had their share of missed shots and turnovers. Maybe finals week was taking its toll. Regardless, the Lopes pulled within six before the Wildcats went on a Kobi Simmons run at the free throw line, finally stretching the lead to13 and waking up the crowd. Arizona stumbled a bit but held on to remain undefeated at home.

One key stat that won’t sit well with Coach Sean Miller is nine assists to 19 turnovers. A great stat is outscoring the Antelopes 19-5 at the free throw line in the second half. In his post-game interview, Coach Miller said he was happy how his team handled GCU’s physical game. Also, defense won the game for the Wildcats as well as out-rebounding the Antelopes 42-29. He seemed more pleased than the fans.

There is history between these in-state basketball teams, and the coaching ties serve as bookends for Lute Olson’s tenure in Tucson. When long-time Arizona coach Fred Snowden resigned in 1982, then-Grand Canyon coach Ben Lindsey was hired to fill his shoes.

Lindsey had held the top job at GCU for16 years, winning two NAIA titles. Due to Lindsey’s lack of production at Arizona, winning only four games in 1982-83, he was replaced by Lute Olson and the rest is history. It should be noted Ben Lindsey was the first basketball coach at any Arizona college or university to win a national championship, so maybe Olson had some big shoes to fill.

After Lute Olson retired, Russ Pennell took over the Wildcats for two years, trying to steady the program after Olson’s unexpected departure. Grand Canyon took notice and hired Pennell to coach the Antelopes for two years.

Fun Fact: Lute Olson’s grandson Matt Brase, a former Arizona Wildcat and current head coach of the Houston Rockets D-League team, the Vipers, also served as an assistant graduate coach for GCU from 2009-2011.

Most fans were not fans of the uniforms worn by the Cats tonight, just pure white and bronze or gold. They thought it reminded them of ASWHO uniforms. I tend to agree with them.

Meanwhile, our two ZZ Experts were having fun with our followers all through the game trying to figure out who the female GCU fan was who would scream at the top of her lungs every time Arizona would shoot a free throw. If you missed it is a sample of what it sounded like:

This Saturday the Wildcats take on Texas A & M in Houston with an early 10 AM MST start time. Often the Cats are slow starters in early games, but this past Saturday that wasn’t the case at Missouri. Arizona was strong from the start. Let’s hope they put this game against Grand Canyon behind them and come out sharp on Saturday on the road. The ZonaZoo will be full of students after January 11th, 2018.

BearDown Arizona, finals are almost over!