LAS VEGAS – The UMKC Kangaroos came up just short in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament as they fell to the Grand Canyon Lopes, 77-74. The defeat closes the season for UMKC with a record of 10-22 and 5-9 in the WAC.
“It was a hard fought game by both teams,” Head Coach Kareem Richardson said. “Our guys competed. One of the big things we talked about was leaving the game with no regrets, obviously the score is a regret and we had a chance to win the game, but their intensity and effort, they shouldn’t have any regrets with the way that they played and competed.”
Four Roos scored in double-digits led by sophomore Isaiah Ross (Davenport, Iowa) with 18. Freshman Brandon McKissic (Ferguson, Mo.) put in 17 while sophomore Jordan Giles (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) had 13 and senior Broderick Robinson (Grand Junction, Colo.) 11 and a team-best seven rebounds. UMKC led nearly the entire game but trailing by three in the waning seconds, Robinson’s open three-point try from deep on the right wing came up short.
“We can play with anyone in this league, no doubt about it,” Giles said. “We almost came up with the win today, but we just came up a little bit short. It could have went either way, but I felt like we played a good game.”
An early blitz by UMKC put them in the driver’s seat early. The Roos notched the game’s first seven points forcing a GCU timeout just two minutes into the game. The onslaught continued as the lead ballooned to 16 at the 13:30 mark of the opening half with UMKC in front 20-4. To that point, the Roo defense had held the Lopes to just 1-12 shooting from the field.
Grand Canyon worked themselves back into the game and went on a 10-0 run to close within four points with 9:44 to go before half. UMKC retained the lead for the remainder of the half with the margin fluctuating to as many as nine and as few as two including at the break after three GCU free throws at :21 made it 42-40. Fouls dogged the Roos late in the half as Aleer Leek (Juba, South Sudan), Giles and Tony Jackson (Montgomery, Ala.) all picked up their third personal in the final five minutes.
Giles opened the final twenty minutes with a quick bucket but UMKC would go cold and hit just one field goal over the next 7:04 as Grand Canyon twice grabbed two point leads. Each time the Roos bounced right back to tie. With the game knotted at 52, the Lopes embarked on an 8-3 build their lead to a game high five with 10:08 remaining. Alessandro Lever scored the final six in the run for GCU.
Isaiah Ross brought the Roos back though, as he went on a personal 7-0 run to put the Roos on top 62-60 with under eight minutes remaining. Defense also keyed the run as UMKC would hold Grand Canyon without a field goal for 4:56 as the Roos bumped their lead back to as many as five at 68-63 with 6:13 to go after a three-point play by Ross.
After GCU cut the margin to one, McKissic scored on a lay-in with 4:44 left pushing the lead back to three. However, UMKC would hit just one field goal the rest of the game. Grand Canyon would take the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Casey Benson with 1:41 left. McKissic’s layup with :29 remaining cut it to one but two free throws by Damari Milstead made it a three point game, setting up the Roos’ final possession and Robinson’s potential tying three.
Foul issues continued to plague the Roos in the second half as Giles picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the half and Leek got his fourth with nearly 16 minutes left. Giles would later foul out with 2:01 to go on an offensive foul.
For the afternoon, UMKC knocked in seven three point shots while holding GCU to just 3-21 from downtown but were outrebounded by seven. Alessandro Lever led Grand Canyon with 29 points while Oscar Frayer posted a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Grand Canyon advances to the WAC Tournament semi-finals on Friday night while the Roos wrap up their season and start to prepare for next year.
– UMKC –