Redhawks lose WAC opener to UMKC

If Seattle U went into Saturday night's WAC opener expecting to face the same Missouri-Kansas City team that had been predicted to finish near the bottom of the conference, they must have been surprised when their opponents in yellow came out looking and playing like the Golden State Warriors.

The Kangaroos ran up-tempo and rained three-pointers on the Redhawks for all of the first half and most of the second, building a 22-point lead before withstanding a late SU rally and hanging on for a 95-84 upset victory.

Led by first-year head coach Kareem Richardson -- who won a national championship last season as an assistant at Louisville -- UMKC (5-9, 2-0 WAC) was coming off Thursday's unexpected win over Idaho in its WAC debut. Even in that game, UMKC was far from an offensive juggernaut, and entering the SU game was shooting just 25 percent from three-point range for the season.

Against the Redhawks, however, the 'Roos looked unstoppable, with freshmen guards Martez Harrison (19 points) and Frank Williams (16 points) playing the roles of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. UMKC hit 7-of-10 threes in the first half to build an 11-point halftime lead, then hit 8-of-9 shots from the field to begin the second half and put SU on the ropes.

Seattle U's resident three-point shooters, meanwhile, had a rough night. While leading scorer Isiah Umipig managed to make four triples in 13 attempts, the remaining collective of Jarell Flora, Emerson Murray, Luiz Bidart and Clarence Trent -- basically everyone else on the roster with a green light to take threes -- shot a combined to go 1-for-13 from deep.

The Redhawks' offense was most effective when the ball went inside to Trent, Deshaun Sunderhaus, Shore Adenekan and Jack Crook. But by letting UMKC dictate the pace and get out to an early lead, SU didn't have time to chip away by working the ball around for two-pointers when three-pointers were easier to come by and worth more. Think of it like a football team that falls behind early and has to pass the ball instead of running to catch up.

The game seemed out of reach for SU when UMKC went up by 20 with eight and a half minutes remaining. But then the Redhawks quickly scored eight unanswered points, highlighted by three steals in less than a minute. That was the beginning of an 18-4 run. The Redhawks would eventually cut the margin down to five points with under a minute and a half to go, but 6-6 forward Trent fouled Harrison while the 5-11 guard made a circus shot, and the three-point play essentially ended SU's comeback.

"They had a nice rhythm in the first half and really shot the ball well. We dug ourselves into a pretty big hole, but you have to give them credit for playing well tonight," SU coach Cameron Dollar said. "We loosened up and created some offense in the second half, but they kept shooting the ball well and made their free throws."

Umipig led SU with 24 points and four steals, while Trent had 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. Murray posted 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while point guard D'Vonne Pickett Jr. was a sparkplug off the bench with 11 points.

UMKC swingman Nelson Kirksey led the 'Roos with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Harrison had 19 points, seven assists and three steals. The Kangaroos shot 11-of-20 from three-point range.

NOTES

* Seattle U's next game is Thursday, Jan. 9, at New Mexico State. The Aggies are the two-time defending WAC champions.

* Other WAC results from Saturday: Utah Valley (7-7, 1-0) beat Cal State Bakersfield (7-8, 0-1); Chicago State (6-8, 1-0) beat Idaho (6-10, 0-2); New Mexico State (12-5, 1-0) beat Grand Canyon (6-9, 1-1); and Texas-Pan American (4-12) lost at Texas A&M.