Grand Canyon’s greatest strength this season became its biggest weakness on Wednesday night.
The 3-point shot, something the Antelopes defended so well, kept falling for Mercer, especially for guard Ross Cummings, and their season ended with a thud at GCU Arena.
Cummings made 5 of 7 3-pointers and Mercer beat GCU 78-73 in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational.
Mercer (19-14), which advances to a Monday quarterfinal against North Texas, made 10 of 20 3-pointers.
GCU held opponents to 27-percent shooting from behind the arc entering the game.
Mercer went on an 11-0 run to erase a 65-61 deficit and take a 72-65 lead with three minutes left. Jordan Strawberry’s 3-pointer was followed by a follow tip by Desmond Ringer to build the seven-point lead.
GCU (22-12) got within five on a Keonta Vernon dunk with 1:15 left.
After the Bears turned it over with 42 seconds left, Casey Benson, who had his best game for the Antelopes in his final college game (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, no turnovers), scored on a drive as he was fouled with 33 seconds to play. He missed the free throw, keeping it a three-point game.
The Bears made four free throws in the last 26 seconds to ice it.
A key moment came with four minutes left when Vernon made a steal and had a dunk at the other end. But he chose to pass the ball off. It went over trailing Gerard Martin’s head and out of bounds for a turnover.
Instead of tying to score, GCU was back on its heels trying to make another stop. That just sparked Mercer’s run.
Cummings and Strawberry both had 21 points.