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A Grand Night of College Hoops

By Jose Romero - Dec 05, 2017

Tuesday night saw Phoenix host some big-time college basketball, with two of three major Divison I programs in the state in action at the home of the Phoenix Suns downtown. 

Arizona had a chance to topple a top-10 team in Texas A&M, No. 7 in the nation, in the opening game of the Valley of the Sun Shootout on ESPN. The Wildcats are typically the team in the top 10, but they were 5-3 and off to a disappointing start by their standards. 

So the Wildcats, playing essentially a home game with lots of red and blue in the purple seats, were the underdogs and gave the Aggies a battle, ultimately winning 76-64.

A battle also raged in the seats between Arizona fans and early-arriving Grand Canyon University fans sitting behind one hoop. The Lopes brought a large contingent of Havocs, the name for the rowdy student section, and they both razzed the Wildcats from Tucson and helped cheer them on. 

Neither schools' fans showed much appreciation for an Arizona State fan who drew attention to himself, as ASU is Arizona's main rival and has yet to agree to a game against Grand Canyon, the upstart program in the city that only a few years ago went Division I. 

The GCU kids high-fived the Wildcats players as they left the court, so there is love between state schools after all.

That said, the Sun Devils are, perhaps surprisingly, the area's best team, at 7-0 and ranked No. 16 in the nation going into Tuesday. 

The Aggies had a hard time against Arizona's defense in a low-scoring affair, but the game was back-and forth with neither team leading by more than six points. 

Texas A&M senior Tonny Trocha-Morelos played major minutes and hit a big 3-pointer late. He's from Cartagena, Colombia and is featured on the cover of the team's media guide. 

In the end, the Wildcats made the free throws, and the Aggies missed an important one and committed a huge turnover in the final seconds that cost them. 

The second matchup of the night featured Grand Canyon, 5-1 under former Suns fan favorite Dan Majerle, facing St. John's. The Red Storm are fondly remembered as one of the great Big East teams from the 1980s, and while still members of the Big East are trying to find success again.

The Lopes probably wished this one could have been played at their on-campus arena, but Majerle wasn't turning down the chance to play a quality opponent with tradition. And he got to see an old NBA counterpart, St. John's coach Chris Mullin. 

Grand Canyon got off to an ice-cold start with seven turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game and only 2-of-13 shooting in the first 10 minutes. But the Lopes roared back from an 11-point deficit to make it a 32-27 game at halftime. 

St. Johns built a large enough second-half lead to keep GCU from rallying and improved to 8-1.

The night was a success, it appeared, from press row. As the GCU program grows in stature and ability compete, it will draw more fans beyond its impressive student section. And Arizona was the big draw of the night with so many fans and alumni in the Phoenix area. 


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