The 88-78 final score in favor of the Huskies doesn't look much different than last season's 87-74 count that also went Washington. And yes, UW was missing two key frontcourt players due to injury, and lost a third early in the game.
But if the Redhawks -- now in their fifth season of transition back to the NCAA's Division 1 -- are using the annual contest against the Huskies as a checkpoint for the program's progress, this one provided reason to feel good about the future.
Seattle U traded shots with Washington from the start. The Redhawks took their first lead midway through the first half and extended it to as much as 10 points with six minutes to go before halftime. The Huskies went on a run grab a nine-point advantage at the break, but the Redhawks would battle back to tie it early in the second half. Washington's next run gave them an 11-point lead with 11 minutes remaining, and while SU threatened to rally a few more times, never got closer than seven down the stretch as UW closed it out with clutch free-throw shooting.
Seattle U hadn't played UW that well since their rivalry was renewed in the 2009-10 season. Even if you don't do moral victories, there were positives to take from this loss.
Junior point guard Isiah Umipig led SU with 22 points in his first game since transferring from Cal State Fullerton in 2012. Umipig fearlessly attacked the basket and diversified his repertoire with quick-trigger shots from long range. He was too ball-dominant at times -- definitely more Allen Iverson than Rajon Rondo -- but he's clearly the Redhawks' best offensive weapon. So it's tough to blame coach Cameron Dollar for giving Umipig the green light, and it's tough to fault Umipig (7-24 FGA, 4-14 3PA) for taking it.
Umipig added three assists and two steals, and he outplayed Washington's freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss. The McDonald's High School All-American finished with six points, six assists and three steals in his first college game.
Senior forward Clarence Trent had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Redhawks, showing more confidence in his jump shot (he hit two threes) and outplaying the Huskies' decimated front line with his athleticism and activity.
Seattle U committed 13 turnovers (six by Umipig) and some of them came at inopportune times, but overall the team's ball security and decision-making was better than last year's team.
Junior two-guard Emerson Murray, another transfer student who sat out last season, looked rusty and a bit hesitant coming off a foot injury that forced him to miss last week's open scrimmage. He finished with four points in 21 minutes off the bench. But Murray showed flashes of the playmaking and scoring ability SU will need as opposing defenses learn to focus on Umipig and Trent.
Deshaun Sunderhaus (11 pts) was an offensive presence inside, while backup Jack Crook (5 rebs) acted as a fullback at the top of the key with brick-wall screens to free Seattle U's guards and put pressure on the UW defense.
When the Huskies had the ball, the Redhawks did a solid defensive job on star guard C.J. Wilcox. Although the senior sniper finished with 22 points, 10 of them came at the free-throw line, and many of those were at the end of the game when SU was fouling to stop the clock. Overall, Wilcox shot 5-fot-12 from the field, committed five turnovers and rarely had an open look to snap off his bread-and-butter jumper.
"I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, but they made 33 points from the free throw line," Dollar said after the loss. "It is hard to beat a team at their place when they make as many free throws as the Huskies did tonight."
Seattle U plays its home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 13, against Cal State Fullerton in the 2013 Elgin Baylor Classic at KeyArena.