Cameron Dollar walked off the KeyArena floor into the locker room with his head up, not saying a word, eyes staring straight ahead blankly, as if unable to comprehend what he had just witnessed.
Everyone in the arena probably felt the same way after the Redhawks lost 52-51 to Utah Valley University in utterly inexplicable fashion on Sunday afternoon.
Deshaun Sunderhaus tipped in a missed shot to give Seattle a 51-50 lead with 18 seconds remaining, and after the Redhawks forced UVU into a missed jumper with 7 seconds left that bounced off a Wolverine and out of bounds, it looked like Seattle had salted away the victory.
But on the ensuing inbounds pass, the Redhawks immediately turned the ball over and Isiah Umipig fouled UVU’s Mitch Bruneel while scrambling to recover the ball. Bruneel knocked down both free throws, Seattle couldn’t get off a desperation shot in the final two seconds, and that was that.
Any number of things could have prevented that victory from being thrown away. Not fouling, for one – Utah Valley could only have flung up a desperation shot after stealing the inbounds pass. Not inbounding the ball into the tightly contested near corner would have been another. And they didn’t even have to pass the ball in at all! Seattle still had a timeout remaining they could have used, so Dollar could have drawn up an inbounds play, so his team could have not turned the ball over. But they didn’t, and he didn’t, and they did.
The final-play fiasco overshadowed a very solid all-around game for Sunderhaus. The forward led Seattle with 12 points and 7 rebounds, and provided tough interior defense that led to UVU jacking up long-range shots all afternoon. In fact, the entire team’s overall defensive effort was impressive.
But that wasn’t enough. Winning teams have to have everyone executing, both coach and players, both mentally and physically, when the game is on the line. Sunday afternoon, the Redhawks failed to accomplish this, and they have their most difficult loss of the season to swallow as a result.
Key play: The final one.
Key player: Sunderhaus. Jarell Flora gets a nod, too, for coming out focused on offense and contributing 11 points off the bench after being mired in a bit of a slump.