Rebounding is an important part of any basketball game, but it’s especially important when it refers to a team’s ability to bounce back from adversity.
That’s what makes the three-game winning streak for the Grand Canyon University women’s basketball team so noteworthy. After an 0-3 start to conference play in which they lost two of those games by double-digit margins, the Antelopes reeled off three straight wins over a 10-day span to right the ship before things got out of hand.
And they did it with emphasis; the average margin of victory was 15 points.
Two of the three opening conference games were on the road, but now the ‘Lopes are in the enviable position of having some momentum going into an upcoming run of three straight conference games at home. It’s a great opportunity to really turn things around and move up the ladder in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) standings. With a 3-3 conference record, they’re right on the heels of Bakersfield and Texas Pan American (UTPA), who are tied for second place with 4-2 marks.
A good share of the credit for the turnaround goes to a “sudden star” named Casey Rarrick. The freshman reserve player from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale stepped from the shadows and into the spotlight to lead the team in scoring the last two games.
The 5’8″ guard had just four points in 19 minutes off the bench in a 69-54 victory against UTPA a week ago, but then had a break-out game last Thursday in a 65-59 win over University of Missouri – Kansas City. She hit a career-high 22 points in 27 minutes on the floor, fueled by five 3-pointers, to become the first player on the squad to reach the 20-point mark this season.
August Touchard, a sophomore guard from California, led the offense with 18 points in the UTPA win.
Rarrick’s performance against Kansas City earned her a starting role in yesterday’s game against Chicago State. She responded to her new responsibilities by sinking six from behind the arc and finishing with 20 points to lead the team in scoring again as the ‘Lopes posted a runaway 76-51 victory. A pure shooter with a smooth touch, Rarrick averaged 16 points a game last year at Saguaro.
Did we mention that she’s just a freshman? Did we mention that she’s a local product?
OK, just makin’ sure you’re paying attention.
Actually the entire team acted like it owned the real estate behind the arc in the Chicago State game, shooting almost 70 percent from three-point range to rack up 39 points via treys – and shot 51 per cent from the field in general.
They also beat the Cougars on the boards, out-rebounding their hosts 36-28 as Cheyenne Hedrington and Courtney Hayes each pulled down seven rebounds to lead the effort on the glass.
And even with Rarrick moving from a reserve to a starting role, the ‘Lopes still got 24 points from their bench.
Accordingly, head coach Trent May spread the credit around. “I really like our ‘team basketball’ today,” he said after the game. “We shared the ball well, played together on the defensive end, rebounded well, and shot the ball with confidence.”
When the head coach begins to talk about a team playing well together it’s generally a sign that the pieces are finally coming together and he’s found the right combination of starters to make it all work.
And none too soon. The ‘Lopes are trying to maintain the start they got last season, the first year in a four-year transition period as they move from Division II to D-I ball. They finished 21-9 overall for a third-place finish in their first year in the WAC.
The three-game home stand coming up will be a great time to make their move. The ‘Lopes play Seattle University next, which is tied with them in fourth place, and then take on Bakersfield, which is sitting on the rung above them. They wrap up with a chance to revenge an earlier loss to Utah Valley, which beat them by two points a couple of weeks ago.
If they can sweep all three at home, it puts them in a good position going into the final five conference games.
Certainly not an easy task. But, considering the way this team is playing right now, definitely within their grasp.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/ Darryl Webb)