Clarence Trent dashed ahead of two UC Riverside players for a loose ball and streaked to the other end of the court for a soaring fast-break dunk that gave the Seattle University men’s basketball team a five-point lead with 2:04 left.
But the offense stalled the rest of the way, and the Redhawks needed to withstand a last-minute flurry including a jumper at the buzzer before claiming a 69-68 victory in front of 1,883 at KeyArena on Monday night.
“It was one of those games for us that we didn’t really play the way we wanted to,” said Trent, who finished with a game-high 19 points, four rebounds and three steals. “We had to scrap and just get every rebound we can, every loose ball we can and get in there and find a way to get the win.”
The Redhawks (3-2) looked as if they would run away with their third straight home win after racing to a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes.
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The Highlanders, however, used a 24-7 run to surge ahead by seven with 9:41 left in the first half.
The Redhawks regained the advantage, led by seven (38-31) and took a 40-36 lead into halftime. Neither team led by more than six points in the second half.
D’Vonne Pickett Jr., who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, put the Redhawks on top 67-61 with 2:56 left.
UC Riverside answered with a three-pointer from Steven Thornton, who had a team-high 18 points, before Trent’s steal and breakaway slam.
“This is one of those games that we had to grind out and win,” said Redhawks guard Isiah Umipig, who scored 17 points and was 10 for 10 on free throws. “It came down to defense and rebounding. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to down the stretch offensively so we knew we had to get it done on defense.”
Perhaps, but not without some gut-wrenching moments at the end.
UC Riverside (2-3) pulled to 69-68 in the final minute and the Redhawks had a chance to stretch their lead, but Umipig had the ball stripped away.
“Got to get a stop,” Umipig said. “We go over situations like that at practice where it comes down to getting one stop. So it’s something that we’re kind of used to doing, but to do it in a real-game setting with something on the line that was big time for us to pull it out.”
Minutes earlier, coach Cameron Dollar switched Trent on 6-foot-10, 246-pound forward Chris Patton believing the 6-6 SU wing was athletic enough to overcome the size disparity.
On the final play, Patton got the ball on the low block with Trent on his hip. The UC Riverside forward wiggled free with a pump fake that got Trent in the air before launching a midrange jumper on the baseline that hit both sides of the rim before rolling off as time expired.
Trent fell to the floor holding his hands over his face.
“I thought the ball went in,” he said. “I was falling to the floor because I was mad that he was able to get around me and get the shot off.”
Dollar noted the Redhawks lost many of these games last season.
“It’s a fine line between winning (and losing),” he said. “We had a bunch of those games last year where the dude made the shot. This time he didn’t make it.
“But we were there. We contested it. We got the rebound at the end. We scrapped it out. So I was definitely pleased with the effort to finish.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.