Grand Canyon wins WAC Tournament championship, punches ticket to Big Dance

Mar 16, 2024, 11:24 PM | Updated: 11:33 pm

Tyon Grant-Foster...

Tyon Grant-Foster #7 of the Grand Canyon Antelopes celebrates defeating the Seattle Redhawks 80-72 in the semifinal game of the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 15, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

(Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

Grand Canyon men’s basketball took the decision out of the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s hands, punching its ticket to the Big Dance with an 89-74 victory over UT Arlington in the WAC Tournament championship in Las Vegas on Saturday.

This marks the third appearance in the tournament for the ‘Lopes, all coming in the last four years. They’re still searching for their first win, however, suffering 12-point losses to No. 2 Iowa in 2021 and No. 3 Gonzaga in 2023.

With a 29-4 record that’s the best in program history, Grand Canyon is likely to earn its highest seeding yet when the bracket is announced on Sunday.

GCU came into the game sixth in the nation in free throws made per game, and they once again feasted at the line, making 37-of-50 as opposed to UT Arlington which only made 14-of-22 free throws.

Tyon Grant-Foster picked up the bulk of the attempts, making 11-of-18. Although his percentage at the stripe is lackluster on the surface, he was 6-for-6 there in the final three minutes.

He finished the game with 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block in 33 minutes. He also managed to play the final five minutes with four fouls trying to avoid an early exit.

Grant-Foster’s three steals — along with Gabe McGlothan’s four — played into GCU winning the points off turnovers battle 32-11.

As it often does, GCU started slow, facing a 12-5 deficit early. The ‘Lopes then locked in, rattling off a 22-9 run. Nine of the points during the run came from Jovan Blacksher Jr., a fifth-year senior who has been at GCU since before head coach Bryce Drew’s arrival in 2020-21.

Ray Harrison added 19 points and three assists for GCU. He, Grant-Foster, Blacksher and McGlothan are all seniors.

UT Arlington was led by senior guard Phillip Russell’s 22 points and four assists.

In the game’s final seconds, Russell took exception to a windmill dunk by GCU’s Collin Moore and gave a body check to Moore before an inbounds. He was ejected with a flagrant as was Akili Vining, who threw the ball at Moore in frustration.

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