Vernon, Russell lead Grand Canyon to 52-45 upset of SDSU
Dec. 19, 2015
SAN DIEGO (AP) — With a stunning upset victory against San Diego State secured, Grand Canyon's Keonta Vernon took a pass, dribbled a few times and then threw down an emphatic slam dunk just before the buzzer.
Vernon's teammates mobbed him under the basket, celebrating the 52-45 victory that's the biggest win in the Antelopes' three seasons in Division I.
"This is our best victory by far," said coach Dan Majerle, the former NBA star. "To come in here in this building, where they don't lose very often, and to beat this team, this is the biggest win that we've ever had."
Vernon, who countered SDSU's length with his bulk — he's 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds — had 16 points and 11 rebounds. DeWayne Russell added 13 points.
Grand Canyon was blown out 111-63 at Louisville on Dec. 5 in its only other road game this season.
"Our kids really battled," Majerle said. "I was really excited to see how our guys would play here in this atmosphere and whether they could be competitive and stay in the game, and they were a lot more than that tonight."
The Antelopes (9-2) literally got hit in the mouth and kept playing hard. Majerle said Josh Braun and Grandy Glaze both had to go into the locker room for stitches to their lips late in the game and then returned to the court. Glaze hit the go-ahead jumper in the key with 1:21 left.
"So we were tough. We just continued to play and made plays down the stretch," Majerle said.
The team from Phoenix was cheered on by a few hundred fans, including many from the student section known as "The Havocs."
SDSU (7-5) shot poorly after a week's layoff for finals. The Aztecs made only 17 of 54 shots from the floor (31.5 percent) and were awful from the line, making just 8 of 17 (47.1 percent).
It was another stunning loss in San Diego for the Aztecs, who look nothing like a team that's been to the last six NCAA Tournaments. They dropped a 49-43 decision to Little Rock on Nov. 21 at Viejas Arena and were upset 53-48 by San Diego at Petco Park on Dec. 6.
San Diego State's last points came on Zylan Cheatham's tip-in with 2:59 left.
"This is just unacceptable," Cheatham said. "There's no one who can hold us more accountable than we hold ourselves. I don't know what we've got to do. We've got to regroup. We can't give up on ourselves. It's a long season. But something's going to change. This is disgraceful.
"We're just not putting the energy there," Cheatham said. "We take two steps forward, 10 steps back."
Up next for SDSU is No. 2 Kansas at home on Tuesday night.
The Antelopes "played a better game than we did," said freshman point guard Jeremy Hemsley, who led SDSU with 13 points. "There were a lot of things that went wrong. We have a lot of things to change."
Grand Canyon scored the game's last nine points, starting with Vernon's turnaround jumper with 2:40 left to tie it at 45. Glaze drove into the lane for a jumper that put the Antelopes ahead for good, 47-45.
"It's huge, but at the same time, it's another win, a steppingstone, for us to get better and continue on," Vernon said. "Try to get a little bit of attention other than the loss at Louisville."
Vernon said the Antelopes stayed focused.
"We had them right where we wanted them at home, especially, so we just stayed focused and got stops on defense," he said. "We knew if we got stops, the offense was going to come. We have a great offense. It's hard for them to stop our offense. Stops led to our good offense. Stops did everything for us."
Grand Canyon outscored the Aztecs 9-4 at the end of the first half to make it 22-22 at intermission.
Grand Canyon: The Antelopes played just their second road game of the season.
San Diego St.: The Aztecs dropped to 0-2 against Grand Canyon. They lost to the Antelopes 86-68 on Feb. 23, 1980.
Grand Canyon plays Houston in the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas on Monday night.
San Diego State hosts No. 2 Kansas on Tuesday night.