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With Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley on hand to support his former player, Holland Woods II, on Senior Night, put on a show.
Woods' three 3-pointers woke Grand Canyon out of its slumber, after getting down 14-4 to Dixie State, and the Antelopes cruised to a 70-53 victory Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 7,412 at GCU Arena.
About another thousand fans were on the lawn outside the arena watching on the large screen on homecoming.
Hurley's red-hot ASU team had beaten Stanford in the afternoon, allowing him to make Holland's last home game of his college career. Woods spent last season playing every game for ASU, before transferring across the Valley to finish his career at GCU. Woods and Hurley maintained a great relationship after Woods left.
"That meant the world," Woods said. "He's someone who has been in my corner. I've gone though a lot with stuff with my dad. A lot of stuff that happened the past couple of years. Honestly, without him who knows if I would be here, because he gave me that opportunity to come back home and play and play in front of Coach (Bryce) Drew.
"I got to play in front of these guys. It was extremely special to have him here."
Even though he didn't get to GCU until the fall, waiting it out to see if he would be eligible, Woods bonded quickly with Drew. And his court chemistry with guard Jovan Blacksher Jr., and senior Sean Miller-Moore became magical as the season progressed,
There were a few speed bumps, but the Antelopes (22-7, 13-5) got their mojo back in the last couple of weeks, winning their last four games heading into the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.
With New Mexico State beating Utah Valley on Saturday night, the Lopes secure the fourth seed and a double bye into Thursday's quarterfinals. The WAC Tournament gets underway on Tuesday. GCU could be facing Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals. Sam Houston, the fifth seed, plays on Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday's first-round game between No. 8 California Baptist and No. 9 UT Rio Grande Valley.
If GCU wins Thursday, No. 1-seed New Mexico State would await the Antelopes in Friday's semifinals. GCU lost twice to New Mexico State in the regular season.
After the game, Drew talked into a microphone, thanking the fans the seniors who were honored before the game. That included Woods, Miller-Moore and Raef Gerdes.
"Our crowd, the best in the country," Drew said in the interview room after the game. "And Holland throwing those alley-oops to Sean. Those are things they're going to take with them the rest of their lives."
Woods' no-look passes to the rim turned into an art form this season, and it was on full display Saturday, especially in the final 10 minutes after the Lopes weathered another Dixie State run. He hit Miller-Moore twice for thunderous dunks and sent an extra volt in the electric crowd.
Woods even found center Yvan Ouedraogo for an alley-oop dunk.
Woods, who played most of his college career at Portland State after an all-state high school career at Glendale Apollo, was asked if he ever had any other teammate who would rise like Miller-Moore for big dunks.
He mentioned Detroit Pistons forward Marvin Bagley III, close friends since childhood and youth-level teammates.
Woods had 11 of his 13 points in the first half Saturday, as the Antelopes broke out after the early 10-point hole and took a 34-27 halftime lead.
GCU (22-7, 13-5), which will get a double-bye to the WAC Tournament to Thursday's quarterfinals, was able to get seldom-used senior Raef Gerdes into the game late with a 29-point lead in the final three minutes.
Gerdes, Woods and Sean Miller-Moore Moore were celebrated before the game, given framed jerseys from coach Bryce Drew, on Senior Night.
Woods got the bigs involved. Yvan Ouedraogo was on the receiving end of a Woods alley-oop pass for a dunk that gave the Lopes a 61-47 lead with seven minutes to play. It was one of Woods' seven assists. He also had a blocked shot and a steal.
Ouedraogo had eight points and 14 rebounds. The Lopes had 51 rebounds, 18 on the offensive end, to Dixie State's 39 total rebounds.
Sean Miller-Moore got going late and added 10 points and nine rebounds.
With the game pretty much put away with more than three minutes left, Miller-Moore jumped high for a Woods pass for a dunk, as the crowd erupted. A minute later, Woods did it again, finding Miller-Moore above everybody for another thunderous dunk. It made it 70-49.
Miller-Moore showed off his leaping ability last season when he came off the bench for the Lopes. But he wasn't in as good a shape last season, Drew said, because Miller-Moore, who is from Canada, wasn't able to get to GCU until late due to COVID.
"I credit him and Jordan Jackson, our strength coach, a lot of time working on getting his athleticism back to take it to another level," Drew said. "He's electrifying when he gets that running start and gets up on one foot. There is no telling how high he can jump when he does it. He's got a whole other staircase level that he goes up (this year)."
Another former ASU player, forward Taeshon Cherry, was a menace on defense with three steals.
Backup guard Walter Ellis gave the Lopes a boost with two 3-pointers. Chance McMillian added 12 points off the bench, hitting 2 of 6 3-pointers.
It was a second straight season in transition for the Lopes. Last year, it was dealing with COVID and a reduced season that led to GCU's first WAC Tournament title and first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
This year, it was getting a bunch of new players to find a chemistry among each other and with an expanded WAC that included Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Lamar and Abilene Christian from Texas.
"Credit our guys again," Drew said. "There were a lot of good moments in this gym this year. We love playing at home. And I'm just glad our seniors could go out on a such a great night."
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Holland Woods II ignites Grand Canyon offense to win over Dixie State