Seattle U missed key free throws in a 92-90 overtime loss to Central Arkansas in the College Basketball Invitational. The Redhawks finish the season 20-14.

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It seems March Madness isn’t just for the NCAA tournament.

While no will ever confuse the College Basketball Invitational with the Big Dance, Seattle U and Central Arkansas put on quite a show Wednesday night at the Connolly Complex. At stake was not only a chance to extend the season, but for many players, their careers.

And for Seattle U, its best season since returning to Division I in 2009 ended with a tough-to-take 92-90 overtime loss in the first round of the CBI.

Seattle U (20-14) will lament missing key free throws at the end of regulation, allowing Central Arkansas to get the game into overtime. The Redhawks were 1 for 5 in the final 2:12 of regulation, including missing the front end of a one-and-one opportunity.

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Coach Jim Hayford blamed it on fatigue. Minutes before the game, senior Josh Hearlihy injured his knee in warm­ups. He tried to play, but left after one minute and never returned. In two games in the WAC tournament last week, he had 39 points.

“That changed a lot of our sets, and we play with a six-man rotation so that just put more burden on an already fatigued team, and it showed up at the foul line,” he said. “You like to say you left everything on the floor, and I think we did, but the reality is if we made more of those free throws, we wouldn’t have gone to overtime.”

Once there, four more missed Seattle U free throws and too much Jordan Howard, the Bears’ star 5-foot-11 guard, proved to be Seattle U’s demise. Howard had seven of his 30 points in OT.

Mathieu Kamba’s dunk with 22 seconds left in overtime gave Central Arkansas (18-16) a 90-88 lead. Seattle U then turned it over, and soon after it was over.

It was an interesting game.

On one end, Central Arkansas was trying to figure out how to stop Seattle U’s hulking Aaron Menzies, who is every bit the 7 feet 3 and 285 pounds he is listed.

For Seattle U, it was about trying to contain Howard, who couldn’t weigh much more than half of Menzies but came in as the third-leading scorer in Division I at 25.3 points per game.

Menzies had 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots, and Richaud Gittens, who held Howard to 11-for-23 shooting, had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Because of that, Seattle U had a chance to win at the end of regulation despite the missed free throws.

But Seattle U senior guard Jordan Hill had a shot blocked with four seconds left, then missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.

It was the final college game for graduate transfers Gittens, Hearlihy and Hill.

“We wanted to bring some excitement and respect in this first season, and I think we did that,” said Hayford, who took over at Seattle U last spring. “I am grateful to those three guys for helping us achieve that.”