The Seattle U men’s basketball team knows that if it is going to contend in the Western Athletic Conference, it has to take care of business when it plays at home, no matter the opponent.

That fact made Seattle U’s stirring come-from-behind 71-65 win over Utah Valley in its WAC home opener Wednesday night at Climate Pledge Arena even more important and special.

“We have to protect our own floor and that’s a great Utah Valley team,” said Seattle U interim coach Chris Victor. “That was a big, big conference win.”

The Redhawks trailed most of night, thanks to outside shooting woes, but they hit some huge shots down the stretch, overcoming a 10-point deficit (54-44) with 7:36 remaining.

“That is not an ideal spot to be in, but I am confident in this group,” Victor said. “They proved tonight how resilient and tough they are tonight with this comeback. Multiple times we were struggling, things weren’t going for us and we weren’t making shots. I don’t know if we win this game a month ago, but we’ve shown how far we have come as a group.”

Riley Grigsby hit a three-pointer with 1:17 left to give Seattle U a 62-60 lead, its first lead since leading 12-11 early in the first half.

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Then, after a Utah Valley free throw, Cameron Tyson made a three-pointer from the corner to give Seattle U a 65-61 lead and soon after the Redhawks were celebrating the victory.

It’s hard to win anywhere when you struggle to make outside shots like the Redhawks did for much of the game, but Seattle U’s defense kept it in the game and the offense woke up in time.

Seattle U improved to 2-0 in the WAC and 11-4 overall.

Utah Valley (11-5, 2-2 WAC) is considered to be one of the top contenders in the WAC, with a win at then-No. 12 Brigham Young and a 16-point win at Washington during the nonconference schedule.

The first half was tight until the final few minutes, when the Redhawks’ poor shooting finally caught up with them.

Seattle U went the final 4:48 of the first half without making a field goal, and Utah Valley took advantage with a 9-2 run to take a 32-23 lead at halftime.

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The first-half offensive numbers were grim for Seattle U, with the most telling stat being 0 for 12 from three-point range. The Redhawks shot 28.1% (9 of 28) overall for the half.

Seattle U quickly heated up in the second half, making three of its first four point attempts to help it close to 35-34. But the Redhawks cooled down again and Utah State looked to be in a good spot when it took the 10-point lead with less than eight minutes left.

Somewhat lost in the great rally, was the Redhawks’ defense on Utah Valley star Fardaws Aimaq. The 6-foot-11 center entered the game averaging 19.7 points and 13.8 rebounds. He was held to 16 points (on 5-of-19 shooting) and nine rebounds.

Seattle U finished 10 of 33 from three-point range (30.3%). It shot 38.1% from the field (24 of 63) while holding Utah State to 37.1% shooting (23 of 62).

Tyson had 25 points and Darrion Trammell added 20 for Seattle U, which plays Dixie State at the Redhawk Center on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“I like where we’re at,” Victor said.

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