The Grand Canyon University men's basketball team defeated Hawai'i Pacific, 78-67, tonight at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix, Ariz.
The Antelopes improve to 22-5 overall, 13-3 in the PacWest Conference and 14-1 at home. HPU falls to 9-14, 6-10 in the league.
GCU is now in a three-way tie atop the PacWest standings, with Dixie State and Chaminade. Dixie State has won the season series with GCU and Chaminade, while the ‘Lopes have the season-series edge over the Silverswords.
The 22 wins in a single season is the most by an Antelope squad since the 1996-97 team won 23 games. The 41 two-season win total (19 last season) is the most since GCU won 46 over the 1995-96 (23) and 1996-97 (23) campaigns.
Grand Canyon never trailed tonight and led by as many as 26 in the second half. The Antelopes shot 50 percent from the floor (28-for-56) and made 9-of-20 from the three-point arc.
"I'm glad we won," said head coach Russ Pennell. "22 wins moves us closer to a higher seed in the PacWest and NCAA tourney. Part of a basketball season is learning different things and we've had very few big leads at home this year. We had a few on the road, but there it can be easier to keep your focus. I'm happy with the win overall and most of the key categories we did well in. Give credit to Hawai'i Pacific, they needed to make shots to get back in and they did."
Steve Morin made his seventh start of the season tonight and had 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting, including 6-of-12 from the three-point line. Morin made three consecutive three pointers over a span of 1:30 in the game's opening six minutes to get GCU going.
"Steve is a streaky guy and when he gets it going he is fun to watch," added Pennell. "Tonight the basket looked big to him and we are hoping he is just hitting his stride. He is so dangerous and he caused HPU to get out of their zone early with those three's."
Up 17-16 with 10:55 left in the first, GCU went on a 12-0 run that led to a 39-25 lead at the break.
Grand Canyon came out on fire in the second half and made 9 of their first 14 shots to take a 60-36 lead with 13:15 left. HPU followed with a 14-0 run to get back in the game, but were never closer than 10 in the second half.
Joshua Lowery had another strong game, finishing with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting and six rebounds. Braylon Pickrel finished with 10 points and eight boards.
The Antelopes dominated on the boards, 36-23, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Grand Canyon will return to action on Feb. 23, when they close out their home season with a game against BYU- Hawai'i. Tip time is slated for 6:30 p.m. GCU will close out the regular season with a game at Azusa Pacific on March 2 in Azusa, Calif.
"BYU is a better version of what we saw tonight," added Pennell. "They hang their hat on the three's and run their sets really well. We will have to be at our best. There is a reason they have been a power in this conference and nationally over the past few years."
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