Braves fall shy of historic comeback

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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PHOENIX, Ariz. – After falling behind big in the first half on Tuesday night at Grand Canyon (6-2), the Alcorn Braves (3-5) fell just a final push short of a historic NCAA comeback at GCU Arena. Working behind a career-best-tying 30-point output from Byron Joshua, the Braves rallied from a 30-point deficit to tie the game at 63-all before the Lopes regained the momentum in the final seven minutes of the 80-72 final.

In the Braves’ slowest start of the season, Grand Canyon kept Alcorn off the board completely for the first 5:54 of Tuesday night’s non-conference tilt, racking up a 15-0 advantage on a ridiculously efficient rate of fire from the perimeter, with the Lopes shooting 3-for-4 from long range. A slow start but a start, Ladarius Marshall first put the Braves on the board with a free throw at 14:06. However, the Lopes reeled off seven additional points before Shaun Walker logged Alcorn’s first field goal on a putback at 12:07.

Darryl Jordan and Byron Joshua finally kicked the Braves offense in gear, facing a steep climb against the 30-point advantage GCU had amassed in the first 12 minutes of action. Down 38-8, Jeremiah Kendall put the first drop in the bucket and Trevin Wade converted a steal for a fast break layup. A pair of Mike Pajeud free throws to chip away, and another Kendall putback off the board followed. When Joshua drained a pair of 25-footers in back-to-back possessions, it sparked the Braves, and he combined with Dekedran Thorn and Kendall to claw Alcorn back into the game.

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The Braves closed out the first half with a 24-10 scoring advantage in the final seven minutes of the period, topped off with Joshua driving the lane off the glass with time expiring, having sliced the deficit to 48-33 at the break, despite GCU shooting 68 percent from the field and 8-of-13 from the perimeter in the opening stanza.

Though the Lopes got some early points in the second half, the Braves went right back to grinding down the lead. Alcorn scored on three consecutive possessions with a Marshall dunk, a Thorn jumper and a turnover converted for points via a contested Kendall layup. The once unflappable confidence for GCU players and fans alike was dimming as the Lopes called for a timeout with 17:08 to go and the lead down to 13.

The Braves again notched three consecutive scoring trips down the court, opening with a fast break Thorn three. Marshall followed with a power dunk to make it a 10-point game, and then grabbed the defensive board at the other end – which Joshua converted for three on a spot-up jumper that trimmed the deficit to seven.

Heading into the final 10 minutes, the Lopes had missed four straight shots and Kendall went down the lane off Wade’s assist to make it a three-point contest. Dominic Brewton drew the defense to leave Joshua wide open in the corner to tick it down to two points. And then, fittingly it was Joshua that knocked down two straight free throws to tie the game at 63-63 with 7:29 on the clock.

However, Grand Canyon forward Yvan Ouedraogo making the most of free throw opportunities in the closing minutes got the Lopes back on track, as Grand Canyon focused on getting the ball inside. Quedraogo teamed with Ray Harrison and Gabe McGlothan to beat back the Brave rally, outscoring Alcorn 17-10 in the final seven minutes to claim the 80-72 victory.

Had the Braves succeeded in completing the rally, it would have been the biggest comeback since Drexel’s NCAA Record-holding 34-point swing in 2018, and would have registered as the fourth-biggest defict overcome in NCAA history.

The absolute spark plug for the Braves, Joshua went 9-for-14 from the field and matched last year’s team high with a new career-best 5-for-5 three-point shooting. He also notched a new career-high at the free throw line, putting away 7-of-8. For his efforts, Joshua matched his career high from 2020 vs. Texas Southern with a team-best 30 points.

Thorn added 14 points to the mix, while Kendall also put in 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbing a team-best eight rebounds.

After the slow start, the Braves came around to shoot 41.7 percent from the field on the game, 41.2 percent from the perimeter and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.

After taking on five games in eight days of the current road trip, the Braves return to Lorman for a brief stay. The next road trip is on the horizon for Alcorn, traveling to Knoxville for a Sunday, Dec. 4 meeting with Tennessee, then back out to Carbondale and Southern Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 10.

Follow Alcorn State Men’s Basketball on Twitter (@Alcorn_St_MBB) for all of the latest news and updates. For all Alcorn State Athletics news, follow us on Twitter (@BravesSports), Instagram (@AlcornSports) and YouTube (Alcorn State Sports).