Vermont ends Seattle U men’s season in CBI
Redhawks struggle from the start in 73-54 loss to Catamounts. Brendan Westendorf scored 16 points to lead the Redhawks, who finish the season 15-17.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Scoring had always been an inconsistent commodity for the Seattle University Redhawks, who relied so heavily on defense all season.
When they won, they did it collectively as a defensive unit and their 2-3 zone had been the defining characteristic of a men’s basketball team that lacked many offensive stars.
And Monday night, the Redhawks remained true to form, painfully so – falling 73-54 to Vermont in the College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals.
It was an anti-climatic finish for the Redhawks, who scored their third-fewest points in a home game this season in front of a sellout crowd of 999 at Connolly Complex, where SU had been 3-0 in the CBI over the past two years, including last week’s 68-63 victory over Idaho.
“We just could never get it going all night long,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “We got some good looks at it. We never consistently scored it. You have to give them credit for consistently contesting shots.
“They provided good resistance. We never got a clean look. … We never got our momentum. Never got a good mojo or flowing. We missed open shots. We missed free throws. We missed some layups.”
Seattle U shot 29.2 percent (7 of 24) in the first half when it trailed 27-22 at the break. The Redhawks were outscored 46-32 in the second half and shot 33.3 percent in the game.
The Redhawks converted 23.8 percent (5 of 21) of their three-pointers and made 65 percent (13 of 20) of their free throws.
Their shooting difficulties were magnified considering former SU star Isiah Umipig, the team’s single-season three-point king, watched courtside as the Redhawks struggled to generate points.
Junior guard Brendan Westendorf led SU with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting and senior Jack Crook had 12 points and seven rebounds in his final college game.
But they were no match for a quartet of Catamounts who scored in double figures.
Kurt Steidl had 17 points and Trae Bell-Haynes 16 while Ernie Duncan and Darren Payen each finished with 14 for Vermont. The Catamounts (23-13) play at Nevada (21-13) in Wednesday’s CBI semifinals.
Meanwhile, the Redhawks finished 15-17.
They advanced to the semifinals in the 16-team tournament last year, but couldn’t get past the quarterfinals this time.
Seattle U was dominated for most of the night and held the lead for a mere 20 seconds.
The game was mostly devoid of SU highlights, but the Redhawks’ best moments occurred early in the second half.
William Powell highlighted an 11-2 run when he flew down the lane and flushed a dunk that sent a jolt through the crowd. Westendorf followed with a layup, a three-point play and a pair of free throws for SU’s only lead (36-34) with 14:43 left.
Vermont answered with an 8-0 spurt to regain control and surge ahead 42-36.
The Catamounts put the game away with a 12-0 run that put them ahead 54-40 with 4:44 remaining.
“For a stretch, we moved the ball really well inside out and hit our open shots,” Crook said. “But for the majority of the game, we let how well drilled they are get on top of us.
“We didn’t move the ball like we can. I don’t think we made plays for each other enough.”
The Redhawks will have to replace Crook, a 6-foot-11 center, but he is the only starter leaving.
Dollar expects Westendorf, a second-team all-WAC performer this season, to become the focal point of the team and improve into an MVP-caliber player.
Powell, a junior wing, is also expected to provide leadership.
“It was a year of growth,” Dollar said. “It’s always disappointing when it ends like that. But over the course of looking at it, I definitely see more positives than negatives.”