Brendan Westendorf scored 21 points and Jadon Cohee had 18 to lead the Redhawks past the Vandals, 68-63, before a capacity crowd at the Connolly Complex. Seattle U will host Vermont on Monday night in a quarterfinal game.
Ultimately, the Redhawks may not want to maintain a long-term relationship with the College Basketball Invitational, but for now the 16-team postseason tournament suits their needs.
For the second straight year, the Seattle University men’s basketball team won its CBI opener – this time with Wednesday’s 68-63 victory over Idaho.
“You wonder if you can match the experience that you had last year,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “The first time you do it is usually … the experience that you’re never able to duplicate.
Seattle U. vs. Vermont, Monday, 7 p.m.
“But it was a great experience. The crowd was great. The energy was great. I loved seeing the bounce in our kids’ step and their eyes as they’re playing. We couldn’t even hear each other because of how loud it was.”
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A capacity crowd of 999 – many making their first visit inside newly renovated Connolly Complex since its $9 million renovation – came to life in the final minutes when Brendan Westendorf took over the game.
“I hear it from my teammates all the time that I could be more aggressive,” said Westendorf, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “And there are times when I know I should be more aggressive, but then I’m trying to make plays for everyone else.”
After his team trailed 41-40, Westendorf scored 14 points in the final 7:43.
“It was something that just flowed with the game,” he said. “My teammates got me some open shots and they went in. At that point, my mind kind of switched and I was like, all right, anything I shoot is probably going to go in.”
After freshman guard Zachary Moore buried a three-pointer from the corner that put the Redhawks up for good and gave them a 45-43 lead with 6:15 remaining, Westendorf kept the Vandals at bay with an array of layups, three-pointers and short jumpers.
His basket gave SU a 57-47 lead with 2:43 left and the Redhawks converted 11 of their final 14 free throws to seal the win.
Westendorf also had 11 rebounds and five assists to offset four turnovers in 34 minutes.
“We’ve talked about in the past about how aggressive we would like to see him be as he’s growing and developing,” Dollar said. “It was good to see him be ready to step up and really want the challenge. He took some tough shots and obviously made some tough shots.”
Before Westendorf took over, sophomore guard Jadon Cohee came off the bench and carried the Redhawks. He scored all 18 of his points in first 30 minutes.
Senior center Jack Crook scored 12 points and forward William Powell had 10 points.
Seattle U (15-16) returns to the CBI quarterfinals and will host Vermont (22-13) at 7 p.m. Monday. The Catamounts defeated Western Carolina 79-74 on Wednesday in the opener.
“For us this is a pretty big tournament,” Cohee said. “We’re excited about it and wanted to advance like last year and prove that we’re as good as a team as last year.”
The Redhawks were held scoreless for nearly four minutes at the start before Crook converted a layup with 15:37 left. SU fell behind 7-2 and both teams struggled offensively early on in what Dollar described as a “middleweight fight.”
The Redhawks rattled the Vandals with their full-court press and a 2-3 zone that held Idaho to 30.4 percent shooting, including 1 of 7 on three-pointers in the first half. The Redhawks couldn’t take advantage because they struggled against Idaho’s aggressive zone defense. SU shot 34 percent (8 of 23) before the break.
The Redhawks used an 8-1 run to close the first half and take a 22-19 lead at halftime.
“I thought it was a really good game in the second half,” Dollar said.
SU outscored Idaho 46-44 in the second half. The Vandals (21-13) received 18 points from junior guard Perrion Callandret.
“I know my guys had fun,” Dollar said. “It was a fun experience. Fun game. The crowd was buzzing. Overall, just a tremendous experience.”