7 points, 9 points, 5 points, 1 point, 13 points, 7 points, 3 points and again 3 points.
Those are the margins of defeat for Seattle University in conference play.
The Redhawks have been outscored by a total of 31 points with a record of 1-8. For a comparison, 7th-place San Jose State lost to Denver by more than 31 points in one game.
And those small margins of defeat could easily be avoided. In many of those losses, Seattle led with six minutes or fewer left in the game, only to watch the win slip between their collective fingertips.
This is obviously a pattern, and can mean one of three things. The Redhawks could be a decent-to-solid WAC team that has been undone by bad luck at the ends of games. The players could be lacking a kind of “killer instinct” to put teams away at the end of games. Or there could be some fault on the coaching end.
Don’t scoff at the notion of bad luck. For example, against New Mexico State, Prince Obasi created space and let an open 15-footer go at the buzzer of the first overtime. It rimmed out. Had it gotten a better bounce and fallen in, the Redhawks would have won.
There has been evidence to the “killer instinct” theory, too. Clarence Trent not knowing how much time was left on the clock at the end of the UT-San Antonio loss proved that. But had Cameron Dollar saved a timeout, he could have stopped the game to draw up a play to give his team one last chance to tie it all up.
But I’ve uncovered a fourth theory, one that statistics back up – free-throw shooting.
Free-throws are never more important than at the end of games, when play slows down and trips to the line become more common. If it seems to you like the Redhawks are subpar from the stripe, you have no idea how right you are.
Seattle University shoots 58.5% from the free-throw line as a team. That’s abysmal.
In fact, it’s so bad, only 5 teams in the nation are worse (Vanderbilt is tied with SU). Out of the 347 Division-I schools, Seattle ranks 341st in free-throw shooting. That number is a black mark on the whole team, and has a lot to do with the late-game struggles.
Everybody knows the Redhawks have had trouble finishing games. The coach, the fans, the team, the blogger. What they do in the second half of the season to overcome this trouble will be a testament to what these players – and this coach – are made of.
And if what they do is practice 200 free-throws every single day, so much the better.