Before getting into the finer points of tonight’s game, or even where Grand Canyon University even came from, let’s take a moment to reflect upon who’s at the helm of GCU’s recent somewhat meteoric rise.
Three-time NBA all-star and Phoenix Suns great “Thunder Dan” Majerle is GCU’s head coach. Majerle was a fierce and formidable presence in the NBA from 1988-2002.
Last year, Majerle led GCU to stun the Aztecs with a loss in what was overlooked as an easy matchup at home. Tonight, San Diego State will seek to return the favor.
Aztecs had better pack earplugs, because, according to Louisville coach Rick Pitino, GCU was the best crowd he’s ever faced in his 40-plus years of coaching — including Duke or Kentucky.
San Diego State, on the second leg of its road trip at Grand Canyon, plays at 7 p.m. MT (6 p.m. PT). The game will air live in Phoenix, Arizona on CW6 and simulcast live in San Diego on 4SD and on FOX Sports San Diego alternate channels (AT&T 691, AT&T HD 1691, DirecTV 694-1, Dish 441, Dish HD 9579, Dish Hopper 412-29, Spectrum 325, FCS Pacific and FSGO).
SDSU will look to rebound from Saturday's 65-59 road loss at Loyola in the annual Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge. Trey Kell, who was the only Aztec to reach double figures in scoring, tied a career high with four 3-pointers before finishing with 16 points in Chicago.
The Aztecs will look to prevent a second straight loss at a venue where the home team rarely loses. The Lopes have gone 69-17 inside GCU Arena since it opened in time for the 2011-12 campaign. Their 18 home wins last year tied for the second best nationally.
As good as Grand Canyon has been at home, the Aztecs have been equally impressive on the road since the start of the 2010-11 season. San Diego State owns the third-best road winning percentage in the country since that season, winning games at a .690 clip (49-22), through Dec. 4 games.
Since the start of the 2010-11 season, SDSU owns a 173-48 record. Its .783 winning percentage is the eighth best in the nation during that time period and the best in the state of California through Dec. 4 games.
SDSU has been a threat from deep over its last three games, making 32 treys over that span, including a season-high 14 vs. Savannah State. The Aztecs have gone 32-for-85 (.376) from behind the 3-point arc in the last three games compared to making 16 of 50 (.320) in their first three outings.
The increase in 3-point field goals made and percentage coincides with the addition of Max Hoetzel and Matt Shrigley to the rotation. Hoetzel, who missed the first three games due to a knee injury, is 7-for-19 (.368) from 3-point distance since his debut vs. California in Sacramento. Shrigley, meanwhile, played once in the first three games (14 minutes at Gonzaga) due to an ankle injury, but has played the last three games and has gone 9-for-23 (.391) from behind the arc.
The trip to Grand Canyon wraps up a home-and-home series that started last season inside Viejas Arena. The Aztecs held a two-point lead with under three minutes to play, but the Lopes answered with a 9-0 run to close the game to escape with a 52-45 victory. Jeremy Hemsley led SDSU with 13 points and Phoenix native Zylan Cheatham grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to go with seven points.
Four players that started last season's game vs. Grand Canyon (Hemsley, Cheatham, Kell, Dakarai Allen) are probable starters for tonight's game.
A SDSU win tonight would be a good follow up to the disappointing road loss against Loyola. If GCU continues to play well, this victory could be considered “good win” for SDSU, which will be critically important to earn an SDSU at-large tournament bid.