Despite a pair of double-double performances from Brandon Randolph and Isaac Neilson, Utah Valley couldn't overcome a big second half run by Grand Canyon in an 82-72 setback to the Antelopes on Saturday night in the team's WAC opener at GCU Arena.
With the loss, Utah Valley falls to 8-8 overall on the season and drops to 0-1 in WAC play. Grand Canyon improves to 10-6 overall and 1-0 in league play.
"Five minutes into the second half we were feeling OK and then it slipped into that second five-minute segment," said Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope. "We couldn't manage Josh Bruan tonight. He was really, really good. He put together a terrific game and it was a great effort by him."
Trailing by eight points, 17-9, with 11:59 to play in the first half, Utah Valley went on a 13-0 run in the next five minutes to take its largest lead of the game, 22-17, with 6:56 remaining in the half. The two teams then played through four ties and a pair of lead changes before Grand Canyon took a 38-35 advantage into the break.
A Neilson dunk at the 15:57 mark of the second half cut the GCU lead to just two points, 43-41. Grand Canyon responded with a 16-2 run to take a 59-43 advantage with 11:58 remaining. The Wolverines battled back to get as close as eight points, 61-53, with 8:31 to play, but couldn't get any closer as the Antelopes built their lead back up to as many as 19 points at the four-minute mark and UVU ran out of time to recover as Grand Canyon secured the win.
Randolph registered his second double-double of the season with 18 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. The junior guard also dished out a team-high six assists. Randolph knocked down 6-of-10 shots from the field and went a perfect 6-for-6 at the free-throw line.
Neilson tallied his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Neilson connected on 6-of-10 shots on the night, including a shot from long range.
Kenneth Ogbe led Utah Valley with a team-high 20 points, his third 20-plus point game of the season. The junior guard knocked down 8-of-16 shots from the field, including a pair of shots from long range. He also went 2-for-3 at the charity stripe and pulled down three rebounds. Conner Toolson was also in double figures with 11 points.
As a team, Utah Valley shot 41.3 percent (26-of-63) on the night compared to GCU's 40.8 percent (29-of-71) mark. The Wolverines connected on just 6-of-26 shots from beyond the arc to GCU's 12-of-35 mark. UVU out-rebounded GCU, 44-42.
Braun led Grand Canyon with a game-high 31 points. The junior guard connected on 10-of-20 shots from the field and knocked down 7-of-13 shots from long range. DeWayne Russell helped with 21 points, while Kerwin Smith added 12.
Utah Valley continues WAC play on Thursday as the Wolverines return to the UCCU Center to host Chicago State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST. The game marks the WAC Digital Network's game of the week. It will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
"It'll be good for us to get home," said Pope. "We have two tough games at home. It's really fun to be in conference play. I love playing in-league games. There is an added intensity to them. We're going to have a good run in this conference and there are good things ahead for us."
Jason Erickson works in the communications office at the Utah Valley University athletic department. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.