By: Keller Sherman
Featured Image Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics
LAS VEGAS — When Southern Utah does battle with Grand Canyon on Saturday night, it will be for many things. The biggest of which is that the winner has the WAC’s automatic and only bid to the NCAA Tournament. The second is that the Thunderbirds seek their first trip to the Big Dance since 2001 which would be only the second in program history. Third is a mentality thing; SUU would like some revenge for falling to the Lopes on their home floor. With a win on Saturday night, the Thunderbirds can accomplish all three of these things. In addition, it would cap off a major turnaround job by Todd Simon, who is really only missing that trip to March Madness.
Last Time Out
Tevian Jones had his “One Shining Moment”. Down 23 with 16 minutes to go, the Thunderbirds pulled off a miraculous comeback. Jones was the hero that finished that comeback. After draining a three-pointer that endured review and being fouled, he broke the tie on a free throw. Utah Valley’s game-winning layup attempt did not go in and SUU got a thrilling win. Orleans Arena has been a magic factory for the Thunderbirds for the past three days. It was working again on Friday night in an 89-88 comeback victory. Can the Thunderbirds get that magic working again Saturday night?
GCU Arena North?
The fanbase that has shown out the most in WACVegas is Grand Canyon. Just ask anyone who attended the Lopes showdown with Sam Houston in the semifinals on Friday night. Orleans Arena has been at its loudest when the Lopes is on the floor. The band and cheer squad also takes no prisoners during opposing free throws. Miss, a free throw and one might hear the iconic losing horn from the game show The Price is Right. The GCU Havocs have brought their chaos from Phoenix to Las Vegas. For a Thunderbird to win on Saturday night, they will have to face havoc itself.
A Look at the Lopes
Only 10 days have passed since these two teams last played. Rayshon Harrison led the scoring for the Lopes when they knocked off the Thunderbirds in Cedar City. He had 29 points in that game and followed that up with 25 and 30-point performances. Harrison has been a little quieter in the last two outings. He only had 12 in the quarterfinal win over Seattle and failed to hit double figures against Sam Houston. His low output in the last two games makes him seem poised for a big outing. In a game where everything is on the line, Harrison will look to be that star player carrying the team. He is a big part of the Lopes, but GCU has a high scoring offense as a whole. This group will be ready to go toe-to-toe for 40 minutes with SUU’s high profile offense yet again.