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WAC Notes: Oscar Frayer dazzles in near upset, UMKC wins again and more

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NCAA Basketball: St. John at Grand Canyon Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It took four tries, but Oscar Frayer finally got loose against New Mexico State.

As a freshman last season, Frayer had just six points and five rebounds combined across two games against the Aggies. From a distance, Jesse Bopp — an NMSU assistant at the time — said that he saw a gifted player still transitioning to the college game.

“All the physical tools in the world, all the ability in the world, but how do you make yourself an effective and efficient college player?” Bopp said in an interview over the offseason.

He said that he fully anticipated Frayer to take a leap forward given Dan Majerle’s track record in developing players. And while there have been modest gains across the board for Frayer this season, the sophomore’s oozing potential was on display in Grand Canyon’s near upset in Las Cruces.

He nailed three three pointers in the first ten minutes of the game to keep the Lopes afloat in what has been a house of horrors for the WAC in its current configuration. On the other end, his length was a key part in keeping WAC POY frontrunner Zach Lofton in check (15 points, but on 4-17 FG). At the end of the day it was a career night for Frayer (23 points, 10 rebounds), who reached the 20-point plateau for the first time in anything but a cupcake game.

Despite a sad exit for the purple-clad fan section at the Pan American Center, GCU made its boldest statement to date on Saturday night. The Lopes played toe-to-toe with a proven Aggies team, and didn’t wilt even after losing their most consistent offensive threat — Alessandro Lever — early in the second half.

Physically, they do something no one else in the WAC can when it comes to the Aggies: match up physically on the perimeter. Kareem Richardson raved about GCU’s back court length after a dominant Lopes’ win in Kansas City last month.

“They have high major length,” he said.” Frayer is all of 6’7 and athletic and can challenge things at the rim. It makes it tough.”

Frayer has been a defensive anchor this season, and really since he first took the floor for GCU. The complete version of him was on the court Saturday in Las Cruces, and it nearly led to a stunning upset.

UMKC is having its say

NCAA Basketball: UMKC at Wichita State Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Beating Seattle last Thursday was a nice, fuzzy moment for then-struggling UMKC.

The Roos refused to leave it at just that.

UMKC earned perhaps the league’s most surprising result to date by knocking off second-place Utah Valley. The win showed glimpses of a bright future in Kansas City.

Sophomore Isaiah Ross’s hyper-speed gear sent the Roos into the break with a sizable lead, as he hit three three pointers in the final three minutes to give UMKC a nine-point lead. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Jordan Giles had a second consecutive star outing, scoring 23 points and grabbing five rebounds.

But senior Broderick Robinson may have had his signature moment of 2017-18, picking up his second double double of the year (17 points, 11 rebounds). With two games left against Chicago State, UMKC may be able to turn a once sinking record (8-19, 3-7) into something slightly more aesthetically pleasing. But more than anything, Richardson has kept a young team engaged and competitive, which must bode well for the future.

Meanwhile, UVU suddenly has alarm bells buzzing.

Unlike the sluggish loss at Seattle last weekend, this one can’t be blamed on not having Akolda Manyang. The senior had the night you’d expect against an undersized UMKC team (22 points, 9 rebounds), but that didn’t lead to a win in a game where the Roos were able to knock down 13 three pointers.

Mark Pope said that his team, in his words, “flatlined” after a difficult non-conference schedule last year before using that experience to finish the year on a nice run. If that is happening again, the Wolverines have a heavy assignment upcoming with NMSU visiting Orem on Thursday.

Around the league

UT Rio Grande Valley has been here before. Briefly.

Since joining the WAC in 2013-14, the Vaqueros have been above .500 in league play once. It was last season, and it was short lived. UTRGV won its opener against Chicago State, before losing three straight games to fall to 1-3.

But they’ve returned to the land of positive conference records (5-4) after a putback by Moe McDonald sealed a win in the final seconds.

Rod Barnes is likely not happy as his team returns to Bakersfield, but can take consolation in one thing. His ‘Runners held Nick Dixon to his worst output from the field all year, as the senior star was held to just two-of-nine shooting.

And finally, Seattle bounced back to get a win at Chicago State. It was the Cougars’ 20th loss in a row but it was not without some offensive fireworks, as CSU scored 61 points in the second half.

Let’s call that a half win, okay?