LAS VEGAS – In each of her two seasons at Grand Canyon University, women’s basketball coach Molly Miller has taken her team to the WAC Championship.
In eight seasons as a head coach, her teams have never suffered double-digit losses, and one, Drury in 2019-20, went 32-0.
It’s one of the many reasons GCU is excited about the future despite a 74-57 loss to Stephen F. Austin in the conference championship game Saturday at Orleans Arena. The Lopes’ 22 victories this season was a school record for wins at the Division I level.
“It was a tough one today for our kids,” Miller said. “When you’re playing the best team in the conference, you just hope you can eek one out somehow.”
The Lopes weren’t able to get anything going against the Ladyjacks defense, which held GCU to just 35 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range, and forced 18 turnovers.
In a game where both teams turned the ball over (42 combined), it was the Ladyjacks’ shooting consistency that sent them dancing. SFA shot 53 percent, including 57 percent from deep.
SFA broke it open in the second quarter, outscoring the Lopes 22-8 to take a 14 point lead into the break.
The Lopes were able to get within three points early in the second half, but the Ladyjack offense went on another strong run to finish the third quarter to get it back to a 12-point game. GCU never got closer.
The Lopes’ season isn’t over yet, however, as they will receive a bid to play in the WNIT.
For Miller, being able to continue playing with this group, even if only for a few more games, is special, especially for the seniors.
“The seniors are kind of what kick-started this launch,” Miller said. “They kind of started this with me, so they’re always going to have a special place in my heart.”
While the seniors paved the way, the future remains bright in Phoenix, with multiple impact players returning next season, including Kiyley Flowers and Ja’Mya Powell-Smith.
“I expected us to win,” Powell-Smith said. “I came to fight, the whole team did, and that’s what we did.”
Powell-Smith scored 14 points and added five rebounds. Flowers recorded 10 points, seven rebounds. Each had five steals.
“I just want to go out and play basketball,” Flowers said. “I wanted to be the motor and the energy that the team needed.”
The Lopes’ attention now turns to the WNIT, what Miller calls “a new mission.” The 64-team field will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. Arizona time.
“We have the opportunity to stay on the ride for a little bit longer,” Miller said. “We’re excited that we get the opportunity to showcase our product even longer.”