Lopes can’t overcome slow start in 55-43 loss to Cougars
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Close, but not quite enough.
The Grand Canyon University Men’s Club Basketball Team White’s attempt to defend homecourt territory was a valiant one, but the Lopes ultimately ran out of steam in a 55-43 loss to California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Sunday in the championship game of the National Intramural-Recreational Association (NIRSA) Region VI Basketball Championship Series at GCU’s Canyon Activity Center.
GCU White won five games in total – two coming on Sunday morning – to advance to the title game, cruising past San Diego State University, 51-39, in the quarterfinal before downing in-state rival Arizona State University Downtown, 50-33, in the semifinal.
But GCU’s bid to win the tournament on its home floor was foiled by CSUSM, which controlled the title game from the jump in a comfortable 12-point victory. As NIRSA Region VI Champions, the Cougars automatically advance to play in the 2020 NIRSA National Basketball Championship Tournament, which is held from April 3-5 in Wichita, Kansas.
Despite falling just short, the Lopes played great basketball for most of the tournament, an encouraging sign for a team that has posted a somewhat disappointing 5-10 record in National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) play so far this season.
“I’m really proud of how the team represented GCU,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Lamont Lane. “Everything started to click for us. The small points of emphasis we’ve been trying to instill all season finally kicked in.
“When the pain from the loss in the championship game subsides, I’m sure everyone will be able to really appreciate the strides this team was able to take after the struggles we’ve had in NCBBA play.”
CSUSM’s red-hot start in the championship game included a 7-0 run out of the gate. The Cougars continued to pour it on, leading 14-2 at one point after an inside basket from Gagan Nijjar, who scored 12 of his game-high 14 points in the first half.
Christian Zitney kept GCU afloat with nine points in the first half, but CSUSM took a 31-14 lead into intermission.
The Lopes began to show some life coming out of the half, scoring five unanswered points to get the crowd back in it. But the Cougars quickly drained back-to-back 3s, and weathered several more GCU second-half runs to earn the victory.
The closest GCU cut the lead to was nine points on a 3-pointer from Dustin Troutt with about two minutes left.
GCU’s Trever Ballard led all scorers with a game-high 17 points, while Zitney finished with 11.
GCU Purple, GCU Black eliminated in NIRSA pool play
GCU Purple went 1-3 in the NIRSA Region VI Tournament and was eliminated in Saturday’s pool play by GCU White.
GCU Purple’s lone victory came in a thrilling 43-42 win over Cal State University Northridge.
GCU Black had a forfeit victory over University of Southern California to open the tournament before being eliminated after losses to University of California Riverside and eventual champion CSUSM.
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