Sometimes agonizing, other times inspiring, but almost always exciting, losing close games was perhaps the central theme last season for the Seattle U men's basketball team.
In the Redhawks' last six losses of the regular season, in fact, they were outscored by a total of 18 points -- an average of only three points per game.
The first in that streak of nail-biters was a 60-57 road loss to eventual WAC champion New Mexico State on February 9.
Although the Redhawks had taken the Aggies to double overtime in a one-point loss at KeyArena one month earlier, coach Cameron Dollar decided to make some major changes for the rematch. Backup guards Allen Tate, Jarell Flora and Luiz Bidart were inserted into the starting lineup, while forwards Clarence Trent and Chad Rasmussen -- SU's top two scorers and arguably its best two players -- would come off the bench along with regular starting guard D'Vonne Pickett.
The unorthodox move worked, as Seattle U's smaller and quicker lineup presented problems on both ends of the floor for a New Mexico State team that featured the gigantic but glacially slow 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar. The Redhawks trailed by four at halftime, and after holding the Aggies without a field goal for the first seven-plus minutes of the second half, briefly took the lead.
The teams went back and forth down the stretch, and with 30 seconds to go, SU was down by three with the ball. Flora had a chance to send the game to overtime, but his three-pointer missed at the buzzer.
Freshman forward Deshaun Sunderhaus led SU with 14 points in his first full game back from an ankle injury that had sidelined him for the better part of three games. Rasmussen scored 12 points off the bench, while Flora added eight points and five rebounds in his first start of the season.