The stage was set Saturday afternoon for what was the headliner of WAC action. The undefeated Seattle U Redhawks welcomed red hot conference newcomers Southern Utah for their first showdown as conference foes.
The Thunderbirds got a little bit of their own medicine inside the Redhawk Center. After a valiant effort for three fourths of the way, Southern Utah collapsed. Thus, ending up on the wrong side of a 21-point loss, after a monster second-half run by the host Redhawks. Riley Grigsby had a monster second half to help put Southern Utah away for good in this marquee matchup, 81-60.
Redhawks Fly High In Second Half
As expected, this contest was neck and neck most of the way. With 22 total lead changes, fans inside the Redhawk Center had an edge of their seat showdown on their hands. After trailing 7-3 early in the game, Seattle went into halftime up 36-34 holding off the Thunderbirds in the half’s closing minutes. A hot shooting night from beyond the arc began immediately, netting eight 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.
The second half started off with much of the same. Both squads trading blows looking for any little room to separate themselves. After neutralizing Thunderbird big man Jason Spurgin by placing him in foul trouble, the Redhawks found that opportunity. Around the 10-minute mark, after Southern Utah took their last lead of the game with a Tevian Jones layup, Seattle went on a 25-5 in the following six minutes. Riley Grigsby led the charge, and was on fire in that time span. Chris Victor’s squad shot 46.2% (30-65) from the field, 37.1% (13-35) from deep and 72.7% (8-11) from the foul stripe. All this while also holding the nation’s highest scoring offense to just 26 second-half points.
You Can’t Shoot Lights Out Every Time
To head on the road after draining 20 3-pointers in their last outing, the Thunderbirds had all the confidence in the world in Seattle Saturday. SUU also came in with a nation-leading 87.3 points per game average. However, Southern Utah was held to lowest scoring night all season. 27 points below their average coming into this one and making just one 3-pointer all game.
Yes, it was night and day from their Thursday bombardment of New Mexico State. But they managed to stay competitive until Grigsby and the Redhawks got hot. Todd Simon’s squad finished the night having shot 34.7% from the floor (25-72), 4% from deep (1-25) and 52.9% (9-17) on the free ones. Also having a tough time distributing the ball, with a bleak four assists to 11 turnovers.
The Silver Lining
With Saturday afternoon’s 21-point win over one of their top challengers for a WAC regular season title, the Redhawks looked like the clear league leader at the moment. With multiple players contributing at a high level and others stepping up when needed, Seattle is primed for what is one of the more daunting road trips in the conference, the Texas two-step in Huntsville and Nacogdoches.
For the Thunderbirds, this is a setback. Not a huge one because you can’t define your season by just one game. But a setback, nonetheless. After a dominating performance over New Mexico State earlier in the week, Southern Utah appeared like one of Seattle’s biggest threats. But when shots aren’t falling they aren’t falling. Luckily after a challenging homestand against another top team in the WAC this week the Thunderbirds will have the weekend off to rest and reset.
Seattle-G/F Riley Grigsby
What do you do when the opposing team is coming off of one of their best 3-point shooting games? Have what can likely be defined as the best six minutes of basketball in your entire career in the second half to help your team to secure the W. Grigsby logged a game and career-high 33 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. 17 of those points coming in a six-minute time span, in which Seattle went on a 25-5 run that separated them from Southern Utah and led to the win.
𝕋𝕙𝕒𝕥 𝕞𝕒𝕟 𝕟𝕖𝕖𝕕𝕤 𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕡 🗾 pic.twitter.com/VsEX1Dq2Lj
— Seattle U Men's Basketball (@seattleumbb) January 22, 2023
The 6-6 senior had a great night, shooting 65% from the field (13-20) and a monster 58% from beyond the arc (7-12). Pouring in so many points with no free throw attempts and only two turnovers all night.
Southern Utah-G/F Tevian Jones
The 6-7 senior swing man did all he could Saturday night. Not immune to his team’s 3-point shooting woes (0-8 3FG), Jones was still able to post a double-double. Ending the night with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two steals in a whopping 38 minutes of play.
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) January 21, 2023
Jones did what he does best in this one, hit tough shots and was a spark for his team multiple times when they needed him. Remember, Southern Utah was in this one for most of the game and he was the reason why with 13 first-half points.
With winning momentum on their side, Seattle packs their bags. Heading to the Lone Star state for a doubleheader beginning in Huntsville on Thursday afternoon.
The Redhawks (16-4, 7-0) first installment of their Texas road trip can be streamed on ESPN+ at 4:30 p.m. PT.
Meanwhile, Southern Utah ( 14-7, 6-2) heads home to host another top-half conference foe in Utah Valley. Luckily for the Thunderbirds that is their only game of the week. Albeit a tough one against a quality in-state opponent also chasing Seattle in the conference title race.
The Thunderbirds homestand inside the America First Event Center can be streamed on ESPN+ Thursday, January 26th at 7:00 p.m. MT.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.