The Redhawks commit just five turnovers in 70-59 home victory and have five players score in double figures.
The start was nice, but the finish in the Redhawks’ 70-59 victory over UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday night had the crowd of 1,752 at KeyArena buzzing.
The Seattle University men’s basketball team was protecting a big lead in the final minutes when guard Brendan Westendorf dribbled into the lane, spun to his right and the ball bounced to William Powell.
To the surprise of nearly everyone inside the building, the 6-foot-6 forward elevated over 6-9 forward Christopher Ikuenobe for a dunk that sent the Seattle U bench into a frenzy.
“I just jumped and he jumped and the better man won,” Powell said grinning. “It happened so fast to be honest. … I just jumped and said ‘Oooh. I’m kind of high. Let’s see what we can do here.’ And thankfully it worked out for the best for me and not him.”
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On SU’s next possession, backup forward Jake Spurgeon flushed a crowd-pleasing slam that punctuated a dominant second-half performance from the Redhawks.
“It’s good to see them let loose a little bit and have some fun playing,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “As maddening as it can be through wins and losses, it’s good to have some moments when you quote unquote let your hair down.
“As a coach, you’re happy that they’re happy to be able to get a couple of those moments. It was a welcome sight for sure.”
After consecutive losses, the Redhawks (8-11, 2-3 Western Athletic Conference) finished their three-game homestand with one of their most complete outings of the season.
Led by senior center Jack Crook, who had 16 points, five players scored in double figures, including Manny Chibuogwu (13), Manroop Clair (12), Westendorf (11) and Powell (10).
SU shot 50.9 percent from the field, including 62.5 in the second half. The Redhawks had more rebounds (35 to 30), assists (20 to 16) and points in the paint (34 to 24).
SU also committed just five turnovers — the fewest during Dollar’s seven years with the Redhawks.
“We’re fighting,” Dollar said. “That’s the No. 1 thing you want your guys to be able to do. I thought whether we were having success or failure, the guys just played hard.
“They gave good effort all the way around. … We just fought and stayed with it.”
Down two points late in the first half, the Redhawks used a 9-2 run to take a 32-27 lead into halftime. They never trailed after the break.
UTRGV closed within three points on three occasions, but with a big lineup that featured Crook, a 6-11 center, and backup 7-3 center Aaron Menzies, the Redhawks extended a 42-39 lead to a 10-point advantage.
Crook, who bounced back from a scoreless outing in the previous game, put SU ahead 51-41 with a short jumper at the 11:03 mark.
The Vaqueros (6-15, 2-4), who received 14 points from Dakota Slaughter and JJ Thompson, didn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
It was the type of performance the Redhawks believe will bolster confidence before they play at Utah Valley and Grand Canyon this week.
“We’re building on every game,” Crook said. “These last three games have been a good example of that. … These last three games have really taught us about ourselves.”