Seattle became the latest team to live out the theme of 2020-21 among WAC schools. That theme being something along the lines of “struggling to close it out against the big boys.” Look at Utah Valley against the University of Utah, or Grand Canyon against Arizona State. These two were both in positions to pick up some marquee wins and couldn’t close it out. Winning these types of games don’t only help out the individual team, it helps the conference as a whole by improving the overall KenPom ranking.
Seattle U is latest to fall victim to this theme. The Redhawks gave Cal all they could for 35 some minutes, and let it slip away over final five minutes of the game. With just over six minutes left, Seattle held a 59-57 lead. This was the last time Seattle held the advantage as Cal proceeded to close the game on a 13-6 run, winning 70-65. With the loss, Seattle drops to 5-5 on the season.
Riley Grigsby, who by the way, played all 40 minutes, posted a game-high 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Forward Emeka Udenyi posted a double-double, recording 14 points and 10 rebounds. Darrion Trammell continues to impress as he finished with 15 points, eight assists, and three steals.
Lack of bench scoring stings
So, what went wrong? Well, two bench points from the Redhawks is perhaps a big reason why. Relying on your starters to win you a game for nearly 40 minutes is a tough task for any team. Someone has to step up for Seattle off the bench and make plays, especially in close games. That punch was missed tonight. Throw in that Grigsby, Udenyi, and Trammell all played more than 37 minutes, two bench points is problematic.
Great basketball game. Cal made two big shots in clutch time. Loved the fight from our guys. Feel free to watch post game presser. https://t.co/xfJCSMOKZc
— Jim Hayford (@CoachHayford) December 23, 2020
A big three in the Emerald city?
However, Seattle is starting to have its own version of a big three emerge. Riley Grigsby, Emeka Udenyi, and Darrion Trammell have all impressed thus far to start the season. Grigsby and Trammell each average right around 17 points. Emeka Udenyi has found his footing the last three games as well; he’s averaged 11.3 points per game.
Grigsby has started the season playing at an all-conference level. Trammell may find his way into the Newcomer of the Year discussion. Udenyi still has some work to do to, but it’s certainly a possibility that he’ll wind up in these discussions come March.
It’s no surprise at this point that these three players can play at a high level for head coach Jim Hayford. The looming question that remains though is can other guys step up and contribute, particularly off the bench?
Staying mentally strong is key
Seattle is now entering a weird phase of their season. During the next calendar month, the Redhawks will play a total of four games. They’ll host Portland on Dec. 30. After that, Seattle will then ring in the new year by opening conference play against Utah Valley on January 15th.
These types of lapses can sometimes mess with a team mentally. It is important that the Redhawks stay healthy and mentally focused in between games.
There is potential in the Pacific Northwest. Jared Pearre, Daron Henson and others like Kobe Williamson must step up and give the Redhawks good minutes if Seattle is to contend in the WAC. This is especially true considering games will be on back-to-back nights when conference play begins in January.