Grand Canyon beats New Mexico State, earns 1st NCAA bid
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jovan Blacksher Jr. had 19 points and seven rebounds, and Grand Canyon earned its first bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 74-56 win over New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship on Saturday night.
The top-seeded Antelopes (17-6) took the lead for good during a 12-0 run that ended at 19-9 on Oscar Frayer’s layup. Grand Canyon’s 7-0 run late in the half pushed the lead into double digits for good.
The Antelopes entered the game ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 37.7% and held No. 3 seed New Mexico State to 36.4% on 20-of-55 shooting. The Aggies attempted 32 shots from 3-point range, making nine of them.
Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew, in his first year with the Lopes, was in the NCAA Tournament exactly 23 years ago when he made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for Valparaiso to beat 10th-ranked Mississippi.
The Antelopes lost to New Mexico State in the previous two WAC championship games in 2018 and 2019. The Aggies won the previous three championships and seven of the last eight.
But the disruptions of the 2020-21 season were especially acute for New Mexico State, which spent over two months at the Arizona Grand Resort and finished the season without a game on its home court.