PHOENIX, Ariz. — With a defender in his face and the shot clock about to expire, UMKC guard Martez Harrison let it fly.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
With that, the Kangaroos had applied the dagger with 10.5 seconds left in an 85-80 triumph over Grand Canyon on Thursday.
Harrison, the freshman from Kansas City, turned in his best game of the season, scoring a season-best 31 points, including 22 of the Kangaroos’ 45 in the second half.
No bucket was bigger than the final one.
“I wanted to get to the basket, but it was cut off,” Harrison said. “I knew the clock was running down, but I thought I got a good shot.”
There weren’t many bad shots for the 5-11 dynamo, who scored from every angle, inside and outside, often taking on bigger bodies. He was up the challenge.
“He’s matured a lot throughout the year,” UMKC Coach Kareem Richardson said.
Harrison’s drive gave UMKC an 82-78 lead with 1:03 remaining. Grand Canyon’s Jerome Garrison, who also finished with 31, hit two free throws with 45.4 seconds to play, and the Roos were going to take the shot clock down as far as they could go before attempting the clinching bucket.
But Harrison lost control of the ball on a drive with 14 seconds remaining and five on the shot clock. The Kangaroos won the scramble and got a timeout. But there were only a handful of ticks to get off a shot.
Harrison did, somehow, and when it dropped through, the entire UMKC bench rose in full celebration.
UMKC, 6-8 in the Western Athletic Conference and 9-18 overall, played excellent offense all evening against the WAC’s third-place team and finished the night shooting 55.4 percent from the floor while making 11 of 21 three-pointers, and was aggressive all evening. Just as critical, the Roos committed a season-low four turnovers.
UMKC arrived at Grand Canyon among the worst offense teams in the Western Athletic Conference, shooting 42 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent on three-pointers.
But from the outside, UMKC showed Thursday would be different. After coming away empty on their first two possessions, the Roos had points on its next 10.
The problem was Grand Canyon was keeping pace with an inside-outside game. Garrison could hardly miss from deep and logged 21 first-half points. UMKC had no answer for front-liner Killian Larson, who maneuvered for 17 points before the break, and that’s why, despite a beautiful offensive first half for the Roos, they trailed 46-40.
UMKC’s big second-half move came with about eight minutes remaining and trailing 68-61. In two minutes, Nelson Kirksey scored inside and Harrison hit five straight free throws to pull the Roos even.
UMKC got its first two-possession lead when Kirk Korver hit his only bucket of the night, career three-pointer No. 100, to give the Roos a 80-76 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to play.
The Kangaroos didn’t trail again. Harrison saw to that.
UMKC women fall
Despite 28 points from Eilise O’Connor, the UMKC women’s team lost 67-63 to Grand Canyon on Senior Night at the Swinney Recreation Center.