Seattle University guard Isiah Umipig had barely left the court all night.
And with Grand Canyon players and coaches celebrating a wild 74-73 victory at KeyArena, Umipig wasn’t in much of a hurry to leave the floor. He trudged through the hand-shake line, walked around a row of seats, high-fiving a few fans, his head down, shaking in frustration.
“It just hurts,” Umipig said moments later outside the Seattle U locker room.
Umipig was red hot for the Redhawks on Thursday night, scoring 30 points on 8-of-16 shooting in 37 minutes. But it was his foul with 12.6 seconds left — committed away from the ball, 30 feet from the basket — that put Grand Canyon’s best scorer, Jerome Garrison, at the free-throw line with the score tied 73-73.
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Garrison hit the first of the two free throws, then blocked Seattle’s final shot attempt at the other end to give Grand Canyon the dramatic victory in a game that featured 18 ties and 15 lead changes.
“I knew (Garrison) was one of their best players, their main scorer, and I knew they’d try to go to him,” Umipig said. “I just tried to deny, he created contact and the ref called a foul. … Defensively, we had a couple mental errors, but the effort was there. We just lost it at the end.”
The loss dropped Seattle (12-13 overall) to 4-8 in the Western Athletic Conference with four regular-season games remaining.
“We’re fighting to the death, baby,” Seattle coach Cameron Dollar said. “Every game we’re going to keep slugging it out, keep fighting.”
Seattle rallied from a five-point deficit with 1:44 left to tie the score at 73-73 when Umipig converted a three-point play with 26.7 left.
With 12.6 seconds left, after Garrison missed his second free throw, Seattle guard D’Vonne Pickett Jr. grabbed the rebound and raced up court. In a designed play, Umipig ran to the right corner, but was covered. Pickett opted to drive through the right side of the lane, only to have his shot blocked from behind by Garrison in the final seconds.
“Pickett has scored, shoot, a ton of baskets like that,” Dollar said. “And he will score a ton more. You know how those last plays are: Sometimes you come out on top, sometimes you don’t.”
Umipig had scored 20 points in the first half, with Grand Canyon taking a 32-31 lead into the half.
Garrison had 18 points for Grand Canyon and Killian Larson, a Puyallup native, added 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Dan Majerle, the former Phoenix Suns sharpshooter, is in his first season as the coach at Grand Canyon, which is in its first season as a Division I program.
Grand Canyon is a private, Christian school with about 8,500 undergraduate students in Phoenix. It is the only for-profit (and publicly-traded) Division I school, and the Pac-12 sent a letter to the NCAA last summer protesting Grand Canyon’s bump up to the NCAA’s highest level.
On the court, things have been smooth lately for Grand Canyon (13-11, 8-3), which had won five of six and sits in third place in the WAC.