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Turnovers, poor shooting doom Grand Canyon in loss to St. John’s

(Photo by Zuriel Loving/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX — You do not need to look very far to figure out what went wrong for Grand Canyon when they took on St. John’s in the Valley of the Sun Shootout Tuesday night.

The ‘Lopes simply could not take care of the ball and convert on enough perimeter shots to bail them out in a 68-60 loss to the Red Storm.

They had 21 turnovers and shot 30 percent from the field, 8-of-32 from three-point range. Players were missing wide-open jumpers but it was something beyond that. They were dropping the ball, missing layups and looking all out of sorts in what was a bewildering effort at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

Head coach Dan Majerle continuously praised his team’s effort after the game that was keeping them in it despite the faulty play, but kept re-emphasizing on top of that how much more he needs out of his team.

“Playing hard is great, but you have to play smart and good after a while,” he said.

While not at the root of the loss like the other two problems, the free-throw shooting showed this as well where GCU (5-2) was 12-of-22.

This was from the beginning to the end. GCU had eight turnovers in the first 12 minutes and shot 1-of-10 from deep, forcing them to play catch-up throughout.

“I’ve never seen a college team shoot more airballs than we do,” Majerle said.

“They play hard but they’re not tough enough.”

Thanks to the St. John’s (8-1) offense turning the ball over nearly as much (18), a plus-four rebounding advantage and that aforementioned high energy through the course of the game, the ‘Lopes could have come away with a win on some other shooting nights.

Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin said it was more of a product of bad offense than good defense and he was concerned about Grand Canyon’s energy level.

“They just kept coming back,” he said of his team’s inability to pull away.

Senior guard and leading scorer Joshua Braun was held in check for most of the night. He scored 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting, being defended well by St. John’s sophomore and former Arizona guard Justin Simon.

Red Storm sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds was the best player on the floor. He finished with 28 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals with five turnovers.

Senior guard Casey Benson was the only efficient ‘Lopes starter, shooting 6-of-11, but had a game-high six turnovers.

Despite a home atmosphere with local fans cheering them on and the GCU Havocs filling up three sections of the arena behind one basket, Majerle’s team couldn’t get it done in a winnable game that would have been a major step forward for his team in its first season with NCAA Tournament eligibility.

“Silver linings were for a year, two years ago,” he said of the team being complimented for its energy. “We want to win the WAC and go to the tournament.

“This is the year that we’re supposed to be good and right now we’re not playing that way.”

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