Las Vegas * While Washington was holding off Colorado in the Pac-12 conference tournament across town Friday night, a former Husky was making life miserable for Utah Valley.
Junior guard Carlos Johnson scored a career-high 35 points – including 6 of 8 from 3-point range – and Grand Canyon ousted the Wolverines 78-74 in the WAC tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena.
Third-seeded Grand Canyon (20-12) will play No. 1 seed New Mexico State at 8 p.m. MDT for the tournament title and the conference’s automatic bid into the Big Dance.
Second-seeded Utah Valley finished with a 24-9 record.
Johnson, who was averaging 14.2 points, outdueled UVU’s Jake Toolson, the WAC Player of the Year, who was held to seven points on 3 of 11 shooting.
Conner Toolson, Jake’s cousin, led the Wolverines with 16 points, while Richard Harward and Baylee Steele added 12 apiece.
The Wolverines stumbled offensively down the stretch.
Conner Toolson made a 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining to pull the Wolverines within one, 73-72, but a missed 3-pointer, a shot clock violation, a turnover and another missed 3-pointer thwarted UVU’s next four possessions.
Oscar Frayer’s rebound basket with three minutes remaining gave the Lopes a 75-72 lead, and UVU didn’t make a field goal after Toolson’s trey until one second remained.
Utah Valley and Grand Canyon split games in the regular season, each team winning on its own floor.
Johnson looked unstoppable from the start, and GCU rolled out to a 17-10 lead; Johnson was 5 of 5 from 3-point range in the first half en route to to 21 points before the break.
Former Weber High star Hayden Schenck slowed Johnson down a bit in the latter part of the first half, which coincided with a UVU run, but Johnson picked up where he left off in the final 20 minutes.
GCU’s Oscar Frayer swatted away Jake Toolson’s 3-point attempt, which only seemed to strengthen the BYU transfer’s resolve, because Toolson came alive and the Wolverines went on a 16-2 run to take a 28-24 lead with eight minutes remaining in the half.
Wyatt Lowell and Isaiah White hit 3-pointers in the half’s final five minutes, and UVU claimed a 44-40 advantage at halftime.
The Wolverines shot 52 percent in the first half and were 9 of 9 from the free-throw line to offset GCU’s 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range.
But Jake Toolson didn’t score in the second half, and UVU was just 4 of 15 from deep in the final 20 minutes.
Source:: Daily times