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Mar 23, 2024 2:59 pm

Points aplenty expected when Grand Canyon, Alabama meet

Mark Sears

The Grand Canyon checklist is coming along pretty well entering Sunday’s second-round clash with No. 4 seed Alabama.

The Lopes defeated a ranked program for the first time in December and they added their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory on Friday.

Now 12th-seeded Grand Canyon looks to crash the Sweet 16 when it battles the high-scoring Crimson Tide in West Region play at Spokane, Wash.

The Lopes (30-4) are in position to double down on their Cinderella tag after playing a strong second half in a 75-66 victory over No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s.

It also gave Grand Canyon a second signature win for a team that is in just its 11th season as a Division I program.

Lopes coach Bryce Drew still gushes about the 79-73 victory over then-No. 25 San Diego State on Dec. 5.

“It was tremendous,” Drew said after beating Saint Mary’s. “A team like San Diego State coming off a Final Four run and just the history they have, it was our first-ever school win against a ranked opponent. We got to do it in our home gym on national TV.

“It really gave our team a lot of confidence they could play against really good basketball teams.”

Grand Canyon likes a quick pace, and it will see an opponent that plays even faster in Alabama (22-11).

The Crimson Tide sailed to a 109-96 win over 13th-seeded Charleston on Friday. It is the most points Alabama has scored in an NCAA Tournament game as well as their 10th time topping 100 this season.

The Crimson Tide, who lead the nation with a 91.3 scoring average, received 30 points from star guard Mark Sears.

“With the guard play we have, all of us can handle, all of us can shoot, and just how fast we play, it makes the game very easy,” Sears said. “With all the space we have on the floor, it makes the game very easy.”

Alabama led the contest by as many as 31 points after slumping with four losses in six games prior to the start of March Madness.

The Crimson Tide allowed more than 100 points in three of those setbacks and they were playing better on defense for most of Friday’s contest before Charleston greatly reduced the margin over the final seven-plus minutes.

“So to go through a little adversity and still have these guys come together and really play as hard as they did, as hard as they played for each other, as good as they did on the defensive end when we struggled to guard at times, I think that’s the most fulfilling,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “You want your team trying to peak late.”

The Crimson Tide are looking to win two games in the tournament for the third time in the last four seasons. Last season, top-seeded Alabama was sent packing in the Sweet 16 by San Diego State.

Grand Canyon aims to show the Crimson Tide the exit door one round earlier. Gabe McGlothan, who had 13 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots against Saint Mary’s, sees the show going on longer for the Lopes.

“It’s cool to see the world seeing what we’re capable of, what GCU is capable of,” McGlothan said. “And just that we’re just not done yet.”

The star of the Lopes is Tyon Grant-Foster, the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year in his first season with the program.

Grant-Foster collapsed at halftime of a game while playing for DePaul on Nov. 10, 2021, was revived in the locker room and three more times in the ambulance. He underwent two heart surgeries and was away from the game for 16 months before being cleared by doctors and signing with the Lopes last spring.

–Field Level Media

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