SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - (Dec. 30) Trailing by 20 points with 9:37 to play, Seattle University men’s basketball mounted arguably its most impressive comeback in recent history, rallying for an 80-76 win at UC Santa Barbara Friday night to close out non-conference play and the calendar year.
A 14-0 run got things going and then Brendan Westendorf took over. With the Redhawks (8-7) trailing 71-63 with 4:05 to play, the senior from Auburn, Wash., drained three consecutive three pointers to give SU its first lead since the opening minute of play, 71-69. He added a layup for good measure and his personal 11-0 run put the Redhawks in the drivers’ seat, 74-71, with 1:20 to go.
The Gauchos’ Max Heidegger answered with a three of his own to tie the score at 74 apiece. But Westendorf snatched the lead right back with a jumper and four free throws down the stretch sealed the four-point victory.
“I thought that half was as good as a half as we’ve had at doing what we can control,” said SU Head Coach Cameron Dollar of his team’s first true road victory of the season. “It was special to see the guys just battle. We knew we had adversary coming in and we dug a big hole for ourselves, but we were feisty and tenacious and made shots when we needed them.”
Westendorf finished with a career-high 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including six triples. William Powell added 19 points on 5-for-5 from the field and 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. Zack Moore, in his first career start, added 15 points on five threes.
“The beautiful part of (Brendan’s performance) is that he hasn’t been shooting it as well as we know he’s capable of doing, so it was very timely,” said Dollar.
In an anomaly of a first half, the Redhawks shot a season best 64.7 percent from the field, hitting 11-of-17 from the field. But turnovers proved costly as 11 giveaways led to 24 UCSB (2-10) points. The Gauchos would take 22 more shots than SU in the frame, jumping out to a 47-33 halftime lead.
A solid start to the second half had the Redhawks quickly trim the deficit to single digits, 53-45, at the 15:53 mark. But the Gauchos responded with a 16-4 run to take their largest lead of the night, 69-49.
Moore would drain his fourth three of the night from the baseline, Emmanuel Chibuogwu tipped in a missed shot and Moore hit his fifth triple, trimming the spread to 12, 69-57. The Redhawks would then hit six straight free throws while holding UCSB scoreless for more than four minutes.
The Guachos would break that streak with a pair of J.D. Slajchert free throws, but Westendorf responded with his 11-point run for the Redhawks.
Gabe Vincent blistered SU for 17 points in the first half, including five threes, while Eric Childress scored the Gauchos first eight points. However, the duo finished with just one second-half bucket, a two-pointer for Childress as the Redhawks held the shooters in check.
“It was a group effort on the boards, scrambling and boxing out and we had some charges,” Dollar added. “There’s things you can control in the game and things you can’t. Contesting shots and doing it every time, getting back in transition every time, boxing out you can control that. And then once you do that, you have some favor that comes to you and you make some shots and you have some things that go your way, but it doesn’t happen if you don’t do what you know you can do.”
The Redhawks were without 7-3 center Aaron Menzies, who suffered a foot sprain on Dec. 28 against UC Davis.
The New Year will tip off with Western Athletic Conference play. The Redhawks open league action on the road at defending WAC tournament champions CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Jan. 7. Tip off from the Icardo Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the WAC Digital Network and can be heard on KTTH 770 AM and mynorthwest.com.