Seattle University survived another heart-stopping finish at KeyArena, fending off a late UC Riverside rally to hang on to a 69-68 victory Monday night.
A strong Redhawks defensive stand on the last play of the game forced a Riverside post player to take an last-second, off-balance, fallaway shot from outside that was well off the mark. The rebound fell harmlessly at the buzzer and Seattle snatched their third win of the season.
The Redhawks of seasons past find a way to lose that game. With only two points in the last three minutes, and a could-have-been-crucial turnover on Isaiah Umipig with 25 seconds left, it would have been easy to fold. But Seattle played their toughest defense of the game instead. A smothering stand of man-to-man coverage took away any possible Riverside penetration to the basket. The defense stepped up with the game on the line.
It probably didn’t need to be that close, though. The Redhawks opened the game on a 10-0 run and looked ready to run away with it before letting Riverside back into the contest repeatedly. Seattle settled for jumpers too often against an undersized opponent. Riverside, a poor three-point shooting team on the season, hit some open outside shots and traded the lead back and forth with Seattle in the second half.
Umipig, it should be noted, had an otherwise strong game, and Clarence Trent was a big contributor as well. The two combined for 36 points and several highlight-reel dunks. On nights when the three’s aren’t falling (Seattle made just 4 of 14), their abilities to get to the basket are crucial.
And on nights when the game hangs in the balance until the last seconds, the team’s overall defensive intensity will be vital as well. It’s looking like we’ll have quite a few of those nights at KeyArena this year.
Key Moment: The last-second defensive stand. Riverside elected not to call timeout on the final possession, and Seattle’s defenders stepped up and stopped them anyways. It was, thus far, the play of the season.
Key Player: Clarence Trent. The senior led all scorers with 19 points, and chipped in with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. He did spend too much time outside – he finished 1-6 from three-point range and 7-12 inside the arc. Trent’s not really a shooter – he excels when he can use his athleticism to outmatch his opponents. And to be fair, he did that often to great effect against the smaller Highlanders, making back-door cuts to the rim to receive alley-oop passes. When Clarence is aggressively making moves to the basket, with and without the ball, he’s difficult to stop.