SEATTLE – (Feb. 3) A battle between the Western Athletic Conference's top two offensive teams came down to defense Saturday night at KeyArena. Richaud Gittens sank two free throws with 16 seconds remaining and Seattle U made one final defensive stand to lock down a 55-54 win over Utah Valley on Homecoming.
The Redhawks improved to 16-8 on the season and 5-2 in WAC play as the first of two rounds of league play concluded. The Wolverines dropped to 16-7 overall and 5-2 in the WAC.
"For us to get this win really means something because Utah Valley is a quality opponent," said Head Coach Jim Hayford. "That was such a hard-fought and highly contested game and we just grinded it out."
Aaron Menzies collected his fourth straight double-double, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The big man also finished with a career-high six blocks as the Redhawks collected 10 total blocks on the night.
"We wouldn't be in this position if we didn't have these three grad transfers (Jordan Hill, Richaud Gittens and Josh Hearlihy) come in and bring leadership and poise," Hayford said. " And Aaron Menzies was huge for us. He is playing at a really high level."
The Redhawks led for the majority of the first half, shooting nearly 44 percent from the field while holding the Wolverines to just 21 percent. A 7-0 run that included a pair of buckets by Menzies and a Hill three opened up the largest lead of the night, 30-15, with 4:26 remaining in the first. The Redhawks would go into the break holding a 36-24 advantage.
But the Wolverines were not finished. A 16-3 run to open the second half gave UVU its first lead, 40-39, since early in the game. It would be a back-and-forth defensive grind for the remainder of the night.
Utah Valley would take a 48-45 lead on a Brandon Randolph jumper with 3:22 to play. Hill answered with a huge three and, following Menzies' sixth block of the night, Means hit a jumper in the paint for a 50-48 Seattle U advantage.
Randolph would give the Wolverines a three-point advantage, 54-51, on a three with 1:14 to go before Hill would make it a one-point game with a jumper in the lane.
After Randolph missed a three-point attempt with 39 seconds remaining the Redhawks had a chance for the go-ahead bucket. Off a Means' missed three, Gittens came up with the offensive board and the foul. With 16 seconds remaining, he would calmly hit both attempts and out of a timeout, Ogbe's potential game-winner would not fall.
Seattle U begins the second round of WAC play on the road next week, traveling to face Kansas City on Thursday, Feb. 9. Tip off from Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City is set for 7 p.m. local, 5 p.m. Pacific. The game will air on ESPN3 and can be heard live on KTTH 770 AM.