Nations’ top scorer in Division II is an Antelope

Merry Christmas, Grand Canyon University sports fans!  When you return to campus from your holiday break, you’ll be able to take a short stroll over to the gym to get a look at the nation’s leading scorer.

Samantha Murphy found yet another plateau to reach in her basketball career.  She closed out her high school career at Xavier Prep in Phoenix by being named the Player of the Year in the Desert Valley Region, and then at GCU she became the school’s all-time leading scorer in her junior year.

Now she has become the nation’s current leading scorer in Division II women’s basketball, according to the NCAA statistical leaders release, for games played up to Dec. 12.

The 5’8″ senior guard is averaging 24.5 points a game that was helped along with a 49-point performance in a mid-November game against UC San Diego that went to triple overtime.  Murphy got her 49 before fouling out with 2:30 left to play in the first overtime.

That performance against the No. 11 team in the country broke a 22-year-old school record.

This year, she has had seven games of 20 or more points and two games when she has scored 30 or more.  She broke the all-time school scoring mark of 1,281 last year and now has accumulated 1,645 going into the last final non-conference game against Texas A&M International on Dec. 31.

Feeding off that leadership, the Antelopes have put together an 11-1 start to the season and are ranked No. 19 in the country.

But Murphy isn’t doing it by herself.  In Friday night’s 76-54 win over Fresno Pacific, four Lopes were in double figures – and three of them are players who came up through Arizona high schools.

The scoring was led by a freshman, Maylinn Smith from Mesquite High School in Gilbert, who posted a career-high 18 points.  Murphy had 14, to go with three steals and five rebounds.

A pair of seniors rounded out the group, with Kristi Girdley adding 12 points to the effort, and Rosalyn Nelson from Deer Valley High School scoring 11.  Nelson also had 11 points, seven assists, and five steals.

A couple of other statistics from that Friday win also help explain why the Lopes are riding high this year.  They controlled the boards, 49-29, and used an up-temp defense that forced 22 turnovers.

Their only loss this season was an eight-point decision to Alaska-Anchorage during the Disney Classic in Mid-November, despite a 21-point effort by Murphy.  But she and Smith, who had 14 points, were the only players on the roster in double figures.

As good as things look right now, GCU coach Trent May, is also beginning to see hope for next year, when Murphy, Girdley, and Nelson will have graduated.

May is getting good performances off the bench from players like Smith and another freshman, Jenna Pearson.  Pearson, another local product from Gilbert Christian High School, had a career-high nine points against Fresno Pacific, but also contributed eight rebounds and was 7-for-8 at the free throw line.

But you just don’t replace a player like Murphy.  They come along only once in a great while for even the luckiest of coaches.

(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)