In front of 1,383 at KeyArena, the Redhawks lost to UC Santa Barbara 88-50.
Ready or not, the Redhawks play their first Western Athletic Conference game next week.
However, Wednesday’s nonconference finale — a disheartening 88-50 defeat to UC Santa Barbara — suggests the Seattle University men’s basketball team needs a little more time to jell.
“We can do a better job,” senior center Jack Crook said. “Today just wasn’t great defensively.”
In front of 1,383 at KeyArena, the Redhawks struggled on both ends of the floor against a UCSB team playing without its second-leading scorer, John Green, who sat out due to a knee injury.
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And yet the Gauchos did whatever they wanted offensively. SU had no answer for senior guard Michael Bryson, who finished with a personal-best 36 points — three shy of the UCSB record.
“We knew he was a good player and he could shoot the ball,” junior guard Manny Chibuogwu said. “But as a team we decided he’s a better driver than a shooter, so we wanted to see if he would be able to make shots.
“He got hot tonight, and you’ve got to live with those decisions.”
With 6:07 left Bryson had 34 points and had nearly outscored Seattle U, which trailed 76-38 and was headed to its most lopsided defeat this season.
The 38-point shellacking was an unexpected setback considering SU had played well recently.
After starting 0-3 and falling to 2-5, the Redhawks won four of their next six games and had a chance to get back to .500 for the first time this season.
But Seattle U was never in this one.
Bryson, who tallied 17 points in Monday’s 83-78 upset win at Washington, caused problems for SU’s 3-2 zone defense.
“You’re picking your poison on what you want to take away and give up,” coach Cameron Dollar said. “You’re worried about him driving by you and now fouling. Now he’s scoring inside and outside. You have those nights when you pick your poison.”
The Gauchos’ 6-foot-5 senior guard converted 9 of 16 three-pointers, which tied a 28-year-old USCB record.
“The guys did exactly what I wanted them to do (which) was make him shoot contested threes,” Dollar said. “They executed against him. My scheme is what failed.”
Bryson, who collected a career-high 13 rebounds, said: “It was fun. It was a good environment and good arena. Our guys really had fun.”
UCSB, which improved to 5-7, also received 10 points from sophomore guard Gabe Vincent.
With Bryson and Vincent combining for 26 first-half points, SU trailed 39-28 at the break.
And the Redhawks fared no better following intermission.
They surrendered a 9-0 run at the start of the second half and trailed 48-28. The Gauchos’ lead ballooned to 59-29 with 12:10 remaining.
Seattle U never mounted a comeback while shooting 34.5 percent from the field and allowing USCB to convert 53.1 percent, including 14 of 30 on three pointers.
Crook finished with 13 points and Chibuogwu added a season-high 10 for SU, which fell to 6-8.
Despite the crushing loss, Dollar was surprisingly optimistic heading into the Jan. 7 WAC opener at Missouri-Kansas City.
“This sounds funny, but I think we’re still fine,” he said. “I think we ran into a good team with a good player. I think it’s more of them being good and less of us taking steps back.”