Seattle U played like a desperate team, and they were desperate.
Desperate to erase the memories from one of the worst losses in Jim Hayford’s three seasons as coach at Seattle U, a 14-point defeat at home Saturday to previously winless Florida A&M.
The Redhawks came out with great passion and energy and it paid off with a 79-57 win Monday afternoon at the Redhawk Center.
They defended every possession as if their season was at stake — not to mention their mood at Christmas.
“We just wanted to make a statement,” said Seattle U guard Terrell Brown, who had a game-high 17 points, and eight assists.
Long Beach State (4-10), traditionally one of the better teams in the Big West Conference under coach Dan Monson, the onetime Gonzaga coach, wasn’t ready for this highly motivated Seattle U team.
“I am just really proud of my team,” Hayford said. “Everyone was really disappointed with how we played Saturday night. … It’s really important that we give credit to that team (Florida A&M), but it was hard on us, we don’t like losing on our home court and we had a really good team discussion that night. We pulled the seams on what keeps us all together, and it’s love for one another.
“I just woke up this morning thinking our team was going to play really, really well.
He was right. He got big performances throughout the lineup and senior Morgan Means came close to a triple-double with 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Seattle U (7-7) bolted to the lead from the start. Brown drove through the 49ers defense for a layup to give Seattle U a 33-18 lead with 4:39 left in the first half and Monson called a timeout.
It didn’t matter. Aaron Nettles made a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 18. Myles Carter, who missed the game against Florida A&M, followed with a ferocious block of a Long Beach shot, then made a pair of free throws to make it 38-18 with 3:27 left.
The Redhawks still led by 20 at halftime, at 44-24, and the big question was could they maintain their intensity.
The answer was an emphatic yes.
Delante Jones’ three-pointer gave Seattle U a 60-29 lead, and you had to wonder how this team ever lost to Florida A&M.
“The energy was there from the start,” said Carter, who had 13 points.
Long Beach State, which has played an ambitious nonleague schedule and has a win over Providence, was held to 35.8 percent shooting and was forced into 23 turnovers. It was the 49ers’ second lowest scoring game of the season.
“We played good defense, but I think we can still play better defense,” Brown said.
Seattle U has one more nonconference game, a touch matchup Saturday at Saint Mary’s, but that can wait. They can savor this win during Christmas, and with a whole new outlook.
“I think it’s a little more important for my wife and children,” Hayford joked. “Because I will be more fun to be around.”