Gerard Martin has been there, done that.
"It was cool. We had a good home crowd. We felt that home-crowd advantage," the GCU senior guard said about last year's game at Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns.
In that game, the Lopes faced St. John's in the Valley of the Sun Shootout. The Lopes lost that game but enjoyed the same kind of support they typically receive at their home games: loud, rowdy fans led by the Havocs student section that was at full throat for two hours.
The Lopes' home arena holds about 7,000 fans; the Suns' arena holds nearly three times that. But Martin said GCU won't be intimidated by the big stage when it returns to TSR Arena to face undefeated No. 6 Nevada in the Jerry Colangelo Classic at 3:30 p.m. Arizona time.
"We’ve played in a bunch of arenas, college and other NBA arenas. It’s cool to definitely play in something like that, but we’re not scared at all," he said.
Coached by former Suns star Dan Majerle, GCU is 5-3 and coming off a thrilling last-second home win over Boise State last Saturday. Last year, the Lopes came one win short of their goal of going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history, but they're reloaded to make another run this season.
The Lopes added a pair of brothers to help them get there -- four-star freshman guard Tim Finke and power-forward grad transfer Michael Finke. This year's team hasn't come together as quickly as some may have thought, but Michael Finke is confident it'll get there, thanks in part to last weekend's victory.
"I thought it was a great game for us, just really a great team win. We had a lot of contributions out of the bench especially with that game, so we can definitely use that to motivate us more, and know we can win these big games," he said.
"We’ve just got to rebound. We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to be the hardest (playing) team on the court, and when we do that, we’ve got a good chance to win any game on the court."
Getting the win over 9-0 Nevada won't be easy. Led by high-scoring seniors Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline, the Wolf Pack are coming off a come-from-behind win over previously undefeated ASU in Los Angeles on Friday, and are a trendy pick to make it all the way to the Final Four this season.
"They’re really talented, versatile," Martin said. "They’ve got four or five guys who can really score the ball from anywhere — 3, mid-range, in the paint — so we’re going to definitely have to guard, and then come down, make shots, take advantage of opportunities inside, and hopefully knock down some 3s."
With Talking Stick Resort Arena less than eight miles from GCU's home arena, Michael Finke is hoping his Lopes will enjoy a home-court feel Sunday that will help them pull off a historic upset.
"Obviously our fans, they travel well, and they’re not traveling too far this time," he said. "It should be a great atmosphere and we’re all looking forward to it."
. @GCU_MBB has a huge showdown with No. 6 Nevada tomorrow afternoon at Talking Stick Resort Arena. @gerardmartin42 and @Finke_Michael are hoping for a loud pro-GCU crowd in downtown Phoenix. Tickets: https://t.co/UUVWYsDdQY pic.twitter.com/d37LJQjmaO
— ABC15 Sports (@abc15sports) December 8, 2018