W. Washington outlasts Grand Canyon
Allen scores 24 points to lead Vikings into second round
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- John Allen scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half as Western Washington built a 25-point lead, but the Vikings had to hold off a furious comeback from Grand Canyon in the second half before earning a 79-73 win on Friday.
The Vikings advanced to the second round of the West Regional of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament with the victory.
"It's the NCAA tournament and everything is heightened certainly," WWU head coach Brad Jackson said "It was a good team win and it was really nice to fight through the second half and obviously we are pleased with the outcome."
WWU jumped to a 14-1 lead in the first 3:44 of the game. After Rory Blanche hit a jumper to start the game, Allen scored the Vikings' next seven points. Grand Canyon finally got on the board with a free throw, but Blanche hit a jumper and Chris Mitchell nailed a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 13 points. Later in the half, WWU had runs of 7-0 to go ahead 25-9 and 6-0 to stretch its lead to 31-11.
The Vikings eventually went on top by 25 at 42-17 with four minutes left in the first half and were up by 21 at halftime 48-27.
"[The 14-1 start] was good," Jackson said. "We talked at halftime about the importance of wiping that out coming out in the second half, knowing that this team wasn't going to quit. They are a well-coached ball team and they fought hard but we maintained that cushion and battled each possession."
But, Grand Canyon, which ended its season at 19-8, chipped away in the second half cutting the deficit to a 12 points on four different occasions. WWU rebuilt its lead to 18 at 63-45 on a layup by Allen with 12:41 remaining and maintained a double-digit advantage until a 3-pointer by reserve Blake Davis at 5:54 and a layup by forward Jerome Garrison pulled the Antelopes within 70-61 with 5:19 remaining.
Davis added a layup at 4:26 to pull Grand Canyon to within seven with 4:26 remaining. The Antelopes climbed to within six at 71-65 with 3:46 left on two free throws by Blake and again at 73-67 on a jumper by Justin Wesolowski with 3:05 to go.
But Blanche's jumper with 1:47 left re-established the lead at eight. Two baskets by Braylon Pickrel cut the Vikings' lead to four with 44 seconds remaining, but WWU finally put the game away at the foul line as Cameron Severson made two with 28 seconds left and Blanche converted two more with 16 seconds remaining to open the lead back to eight.
Allen made 6-of-7 shots in the opening period, finishing the contest with 10 field goals in 16 attempts. Blanche was also in double figures with 16 points, making all six of his field goal attempts.
Grand Canyon was led by Pickrel with 18 points, including 16 in the second half. Davis came off the bench to add 11, nine of which came after the intermission.
The Antelopes, who had won nine consecutive games, made 19-of-29 second-half shots (65.5 percent) to key their comeback and also benefited from 12-of-26 free throw shooting by WWU, which converted just 7-of-18 in the second half.
For the game, WWU shot 52.5 percent (31-of-59) after firing at a 59.4 percent clip (19-of-32) in the opening 20 minutes. Grand Canyon rebounded from a 34.8 percent first half (8-of-23) to finish the game at 51.9 percentage (27-of-52).