SEATTLE – Seattle University men’s basketball ground out an all-around gritty 83-80 victory over visiting Fairfield University Saturday in game two of the Elgin Baylor Classic at the Redhawk Center.
Seattle U found the win behind an impressive 20-point shooting night from junior Matej Kavas. Kavas went a perfect 3-3 from the perimeter and 6-11 from the field for the game to lead the Redhawks to their second straight win and 5-2 on the season.
The Redhawks countered Fairfield’s (1-5) intense defensive pressure through separation off the dribble. Terrell Brown’s explosiveness from the top of the key resulted in multiple drives to the basket in the early-goings of the game that drew in defenders and got Seattle U to the free-throw line.
“We wanted to stretch the whole 94 feet so they couldn’t bring too much back-court pressure,” said Head Coach Jim Hayford. “The first half we had 11 turnovers and the second have we had only five, so we did a whole lot better at taking care of the ball.”
Improved free-throw shooting from Myles Carter on top of efficient shooting from Brown, Kavas and Morgan Means created a four-point lead for the Redhawks at the 12:32 mark. Seattle U went 14-22 from the stripe in the first half.
After breaking the Fairfield defensive trap, Seattle U produced a highlight-reel poster dunk from Carter with 10:04 remaining, which gave the Redhawks an offensive boost, bringing the fans at the Redhawk Center on their feet.
Following the jam by Carter, Aaron Nettles connected on a three on the following possession from a Means offensive rebound to give Seattle U a 10-point advantage, 27-17 with the clock at 8:45.
The Redhawks kept their lead in large part by the efforts of Kavas. Seattle U went on a 5-0 run to close out the first, all coming from the hot hand of the Slovenian.
Seattle U took the 38-31 lead into the halftime break.
The dual offensive threat of Kavas and Delante Jones was vital in the Redhawks keeping their lead. Jones consistently answered in mid-range jumpers as well as in aggressive drives to the hoop whenever Fairfield went on a run.
Despite impressive post-play and tough makes under the hoop from Jones and Riley Grigsby five minutes into the second half, the visitors would find a way back from lights-out shooting from Neftali Alvarez and Landon Taliaferro. The duo shot a combined 5-6 from three in the second half, helping cut the Redhawk lead to just three, 60-57, with 9:34 left play.
“Neither team could really stop the other in the second half, it was kind of an offensive shoot-out,” said Hayford, “The game had a little bit of everything.”
With both teams in foul trouble, drives from Jones and clutch free-throw shooting from Means helped keep the Stags at bay despite the visitors keeping SU’s lead to single-digits in the final two minutes of the game.
In the last minute, Fairfield would make things interesting by going on 5-0 run in just eight seconds off of a pair of free-throws from Wassef Methnani and a steal from the ensuing inbound, resulting in a Taliaferro triple. Seattle U led 81-80 with 40 seconds to go.
Means took the ball up the court and was fouled following an offensive rebound on his own miss. Means converted both free throws, giving the Redhawks a three point lead with 18 seconds left.
With neither team having a time-out to spare, the Redhawks smothered Fairfield’s last possession, not allowing the Stags to get a shot off as the final buzzer sounded, giving Seattle U their second win in two days.
Joining Kavas in double figures were Jones with 17 points, Means with 16 and Carter with 12. Means and Kavas both finished one rebounds shy of a double-double, collecting nine boards apiece.
Fairfield was paced by Alvarez's 16 points. Cruz added 13 points and Taliaferro chipped in 12 on four threes.
The Redhawks look to continue their winning streak Sunday afternoon in game three of the Elgin Baylor Classic against Longwood. Tip-off is set at 3:00 pm at the Redhawk Center.