LAS VEGAS – Down by three points with three seconds remaining, D’Vonne Pickett Jr. converted one of two free throws for the Seattle University men’s basketball team.
His second attempt bounced off the glass and freshman forward William Powell corralled the rebound. However, his potential game-tying shot rolled off the rim as time expired in Thursday’s deflating 70-68 defeat to No. 2 seed New Mexico State in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
The seventh-seeded Redhawks (13-17) finished the season with three straight losses.
“Man, that was a tough, hard-fought game from beginning to end,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “It’s sad either team had to lose that one. In a lose-go-home format, that’s how it is.”
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Any game against the Aggies requires a plan to deal with their massive front line that includes 7-5 sophomore center Sim Bhullar and 6-10 junior forward Tshilidzi Nephawe.
Seattle U countered with an attacking offense, timely perimeter shooting and a swarming defense that forced 16 turnovers.
It was a minor miracle Powell retrieved the rebound in the final seconds, but he couldn’t convert against Bhullar, who gathered the missed attempt.
Despite an overwhelming size disparity, SU controlled most of the game behind 25 points from star sophomore guard Isiah Umipig. Sophomore center Jack Crook added 13 points.
The Redhawks led 45-39 with 10:31 left.
That’s when SU went cold from the floor and New Mexico State went on a 22-7 run.
DK Eldridge put the Aggies on top 46-45 with a layup with 8:46 remaining and they never trailed again. He scored eight of his 19 points during the run and capped the spurt with a three-pointer that gave NMSU a 61-52 lead.
Bhullar, the second tallest player in Division I basketball, finished with 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 13 rebounds while Nephawe had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies (24-9).
SU women enter WAC semis
Seattle University will play Cal State Bakersfield at 2:30 p.m. Friday in a semifinal game of the Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament at Orleans Arena.
The Redhawks (15-15) are the No. 3 seed in the tournament. Bakersfield (19-10) is No. 2.
The winner will advance to the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday against either No. 1 seed Idaho or No. 5 New Mexico State.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com. On Twitter @percyallen.