Grand win for Grand Canyon as 12th-seeded Antelopes take down No. 5 seed Saint Mary's 75-66

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — In its third trip to March Madness, Grand Canyon finally became what it craved since moving up to Division I: NCAA Tournament winner.

Tyon Grant-Foster scored 22 points, and Grand Canyon earned its first NCAA Tournament victory as the 12th-seeded Antelopes knocked off No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s 75-66 on Friday night.

Grand Canyon (30-4) became the second No. 12 seed to pull a late-night upset after James Madison took down Wisconsin. The Antelopes did it with style, slashing and shooting their way to expose the No. 2 scoring defense in the country.

And they celebrated with a legion of purple-clad fans that filled Spokane Arena and gave the Antelopes a decided advantage of support.

“This is our third time coming, so this is kind of the next step in the maturation of a winning program, is being able to win a game in the tournament,” Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew said. “For myself and I think for our program — and for our school — it’s just a huge step so people can realize how special a school GCU is.”

Grant-Foster was the instigator with skills that will likely land him a spot at the next level. Grant-Foster scored 13 in the second half, including a 3-pointer and a thunderous lob dunk during the Antelopes’ decisive 15-1 run that gave them a 50-35 lead with under 12 minutes remaining.

Gabe McGlothan matched the physical post players for Saint Mary’s and added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Ray Harrison finished with 17 points, including a spinning basket on the block with 1:40 left that gave the Antelopes a 69-60 lead. Aidan Mahaney’s 3-point attempt was blocked at the other end – the ninth block for Grand Canyon – and the Antelopes started to enjoy what they were on the cusp of accomplishing.

The Antelopes were just the seventh team this season to reach the 70-point mark against the regular season and tournament champions of the West Coast Conference. They also outscored Saint Mary's 28-7 at the free throw line.

“They have some guards who put some pressure on you, but it’s a big discrepancy to overcome. And having said that, we should have overcome it. We still should have overcome it,” Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. “We didn’t guard well enough and definitely weren’t good enough offensively for the first 30 minutes.”

Grand Canyon moved to Division I in 2017 with grand aspirations. It wanted to be known as a basketball school. It wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Antelopes had been here twice in the past three seasons, losing to Iowa as a No. 15 seed in 2021 and last year falling to Gonzaga as a No. 14 seed.

Now they have a win — and a date in the second round against No. 4 seed Alabama on Sunday.

"It’s cool to see the world seeing what we’re capable of, what GCU is capable of,” McGlothan said.

Mitchell Saxen led Saint Mary’s (26-8) with 14 points. Mahaney added 13, but shot just 5 of 21, including 3 for 13 on 3-pointers. Saint Mary’s pulled within 57-52 on Mahaney’s 3-pointer with 6:35 left, but the Gaels couldn’t get closer.

“We’re a good-shooting team. We just didn’t shoot well tonight,” Mahaney said.

The Antelopes played what felt like a glorified home game with the crowd growing louder with every basket during their second half run to take control. There were plenty of purple clad “Havocs” filling one section of the Spokane Arena, but Grand Canyon became the adopted home team in part because it was playing Gonzaga’s biggest rival.

“It was good basketball environment. The place was packed. Every seat was filled. That’s what you want it to be," Bennett said.

UP NEXT

Grand Canyon will face the challenge of the top scoring team in the country. Alabama made it look easy putting up 109 points in its first-round win over Charleston and hasn’t scored less than 71 in any game this season.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness