No. 12 GCU's upset gives school 1st tourney win

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Grand Canyon’s first NCAA tournament win arrived in style.

In their third appearance in the tournament since elevating to Division I in 2013, the Lopes defeated Saint Mary’s in a 75-66 win Friday at Spokane Arena.

“This is kind of the next step in the maturation of a winning program, is being able to win a game in the tournament,” Grand Canyon men’s basketball coach Bryce Drew said. “And for myself — and I think for our program and for our school — it is just a huge step. Some more people can realize how special a school GCU is and hopefully the effort we gave tonight, hopefully we can follow up with a great effort on Sunday [against fourth-seeded Alabama].”

It was also a validating win. When Drew interviewed at GCU in 2020, he was presented with a vision of days like this one. The team had been a consistent winner under former coach Dan Majerle but had failed to reach the NCAA tournament in its first seven seasons at the Division I level.

Drew saw the program’s potential and was in need of a personal reset after his three-year tenure as the coach at Vanderbilt ended with a winless SEC season in 2018-19.

“We’re such a unique place. We’re a school of faith. We have 25,000 on ground, we have 90,000 online, and it’s only growing,” Drew said. “And four years ago, when I came to interview with President Mueller, who’s here, and Jerry Colangelo. Spoke to them about their vision and they told me what they envisioned for GCU, and it’s been amazing to look back four years now at that first talk and so much of what we talked about is happening right now.”

Drew, of course, is no stranger to March Madness upsets, having made one of the most iconic shots in tournaments history in 1998, when his 3-pointer at the buzzer sent 13th-seeded Valparaiso past No. 4 Ole Miss 70-69.

His father, Homer, was the coach of that Valpo team that reached the Sweet 16. Homer was in attendance Friday but will not be sticking around to see Grand Canyon play Alabama, instead opting to see his other son, Baylor coach Scott Drew, lead the Bears against Clemson on Sunday in Memphis.

Both teams are in the West region and would play in the Elite Eight if they each win two more games.

Grand Canyon’s win was not a typical upset. The underdogs were faster, stronger and forced the issue. They finished with eight steals and nine blocks, while Saint Mary’s — the West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion — played timidly.

“It’s cool to see the world seeing what we’re capable of, what GCU is capable of,” GCU forward Gabe McGlothan said. “And just that we’re just not done yet.”

Tyon Grant-Foster, the one-time Kansas Jayhawk who transferred to Grand Canyon from DePaul, led the Lopes with 22 points and was one of four GCU players to score in double figures, along with Ray Harrison (17), Collin Moore (10) and McGlothan (12).

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