Lopes grab first NCBBA contest behind 23 points from Ballard
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
It wasn’t all pretty, but it was a win.
The Grand Canyon University Club Basketball White team led for most of the night in a 100-94 victory over Arizona State University Thursday night at the Canyon Activity Center in the NCBBA opener for both teams.
The Lopes controlled the tempo and rhythm of the game beautifully early on, leading by as many as 15 points in the first half before the Sun Devils made things interesting in the second half. ASU took its first lead of the game on a three-pointer from Jake Pandrok with 12 minutes left in the game, but GCU rallied to score 10 of the next 14 points, and cruised to the finish line from there.
It was the National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) opener for both squads. Both teams compete in the Southern Pacific East Conference.
“In a way, I was happy that we got down in the second half and faced some adversity,” said GCU Head Coach Lamont Lane. “It was nice to see the guys fight back like that. At the end of the day, a win is a win and we’ll take it. We can be better, but tonight is definitely something we can build on.”
Trever Ballard led the Lopes (1-0) with 23 points – 16 of them coming at crucial moments in the second half. Ballard’s layin and jumper in back-to-back possessions put GCU up 18-10 in the first half before the Lopes later extended the advantage to 30-15 on a putback by Christian Zitney, who finished with 11 points.
ASU’s Rex Greabell paced all scorers with a game-high 30 points. The 6-foot-7 senior single-handedly kept the Sun Devils afloat in the first half with 19 of his 30 coming before the break. Greabell’s corner triple cut the Lopes’ lead to 10 points before he later hit a spinning jumper in the lane just before the horn to trim ASU’s deficit to six as GCU went into intermission up 42-36.
ASU’s late surge was highlighted by nine unanswered points to end the half.
“We started the game really strong with a lot of good energy,” Lane said. “The energy seemed to drop off a little as the game wore on, and I think that had an effect. They (ASU) started to hit some shots and build some momentum.”
The Sun Devils continued to roll early in the second half, opening with a 17-11 run to tie the game at 53-53. Pandrok swished a 3-pointer to put ASU up 56-53 and Jake Klingler later drained a jumper to extend the lead to 60-57.
GCU answered with a nine-point flurry to regain the lead for good at 66-60. The Lopes’ Dustin Troutt took over, scoring all 14 of his points in the final nine minutes of regulation to help seal the victory.
“It’s huge,” Lane said of winning the season opener. “It’s always great to come out and win your first game of the year. It really sets the tone for the season. It also puts a lot of pressure on them (ASU). We play them two more times this week and now they’re in desperation mode a little bit. We need to use that to our advantage and try to come out and grab two more big wins on Saturday.”
Dante’ Nobles added 14 points, while Mason Peterson tossed in 13 for GCU in the victory.
GCU White will play ASU twice more on Saturday in a doubleheader at the Canyon Activity Center. Game 1 begins at 11 am with Game 2 starting at 1:30 pm.