The Grand Canyon women’s basketball team should find out soon whether they’ve cracked the national Top 10 rankings.
It would be a shock if the No. 12 Antelopes don’t move up at least a couple of places in the rankings after beating No. 10 Dixie State, 79-71, Saturday. The teams were tied for second place in the Pacific West Conference going into the game.
Combine that win with the fact that Washburn University, the No. 11-ranked team, was upset over the weekend by Fort Hays State, and you can expect a good bump in the standings for GCU.
The Lopes rode the steady shooting hand of a local grad to pull off the win over Dixie State, as Samantha Murphy scored 38 points, including the Lopes’ final 12 of the game. She pretty much put the team on her shoulders and carried them through the final stage of the win as she hit 23 points in the final 11 minutes.
It’s not surprising when Murphy, a graduate of Xavier Prep in Phoenix, goes off for a bunch of points. The 5’8″ senior guard is the nation’s leading scorer in NCAA D-II and last year became the all-time leading scorer at GCU.
And she always seems to step up against the better teams. She had a 49-point night in mid-November against UC San Diego when that team was ranked No. 11 in the nation. That output broke a 22-year-old school record.
This time, she helped the team to a new school record with its 10th straight home victory, as the Lopes improved to 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the PacWest.
But it wasn’t an easy job. Dixie State was up by as many as 15 points at one point in the first half before pulling to within six by halftime, 39-33.
The Lope’s first-half play almost set the stage for a major meltdown for a team that has steadily been working its way up the national rankings. They shot just 36.7 percent in the first half, and were out-rebounded by Dixie State, 22-12.
But the defense did its job to keep the game within reach, forcing 36 turnovers on the night.
It was Murphy that gave the Lopes a late lead, driving the lane for the bucket that made it 58-57. Then, Stevie Kamp, a junior forward from Mountain View High School in Mesa, hit a pair of free throws and Murphy added a three-pointer to put the Lopes ahead by five with under four minutes.
Murphy took things over at that point, scoring the final 12 for the Lopes as they pulled away for the win in front of a wild crowd of 1,250 in Antelope Gym.
“The crowd was absolutely phenomenal,” said GCU head coach, Trent May, after the game. That was the best crowd, best electric atmosphere in my five years at Grand Canyon.”
Murphy also finished with nine rebounds and seven assists to round out another crowd-pleasing performance.
Jallisa Butler, a 6’1″ junior forward from Nevada, contributed 16 points and senior Rosalyn Nelson added 10 points and 11 assists.
Nelson, a graduate of nearby Deer Valley High School in Phoenix, sits right behind Murphy in second place on the GCU all-time scoring list. Together, she and Murphy have formed one of the most potent backcourt offenses in the country at the D-II level.
May, who notched coaching win No. 199 against Dixie State, has watched Murphy’s exploits on the floor for four years now, but never fails to be impressed.
“Unbelievable, fantastic…” were his words after her latest performance. “You shake your head, but then you say, ‘That’s Sam.’ ”
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)