The Hall of Fame Classic semifinal felt much like an NCAA Tournament battle with two large crowds and engaged fans. Grand Canyon fed off that early energy, but the Shockers – and their fans – quickly responded with a 10-5 lead at the under 16 timeout.
The Shocker defense remained stifling for the next 10 minutes, allowing just 6 more points to mark a 16-11 lead at the under 16. Ray Harrison used an and-one to finally get the Lopes back in the scoring column.
Although Bryce Drew’s squad found themselves with momentum, the steady play of Craig Porter Jr. gave the Wichita State offense a boost and they had an answer for every Grand Canyon bucket.
With 2 minutes to play in the first half and the shot clock winding down, a composed Porter came off the screen, looked off a defender and nailed a heavily contested 3 to give the Shockers a 30-19 lead and quiet the Lope fans in attendance at the T-Mobile Center.
GCU used a 5-0 run to cut the lead to six before halftime, although 28% shooting (8-29) in a half is never a recipe for success against any team.
Wichita State displayed almost prime Virginia levels of defensive prowess after the halftime break, as Grand Canyon managed just 8 points and 3 made field goals in the first 15 and a half minutes of the second half.
From the 14:55 mark to the 5:45 mark, Grand Canyon didn’t score a single point. The Shockers used a 12-0 spurt during this period to push the lead to 16, an advantage that they would never relinquish.
The Shockers didn’t just dominate on the defensive end – they outscored the Lopes in the paint 34-20, out rebounded them by 4 and outhustled them with 7 points in transition off of 6 steals.
The dagger came from Porter (who else) with a pull up 3 pointer with 3:25 to go, extending the Shocker lead 53-36 and quieting the GCU crowd for good.
Isaac Brown has to be overjoyed with this performance. All season, he has called on the Shockers to play great defense, rebound, and hustle – to get back to the “MTXE” basketball from the early 80s and early 2010s. His players answered this call with a resounding 55-43 victory, dominating the things that define MTXE.