SEATTLE — After a tense second half — both in score and physicality — what could have become a signature win for Seattle University, ultimately turned into what most games have been this season for the Redhawks.
In their third season playing a full Division I schedule, the Redhawks are now just 3-11 following Tuesday night’s 91-83 loss to the University of Washington at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. But despite the end result, third-year coach Cameron Dollar saw progress as he continues to try to build Seattle University into a competitive Division I program.
“Before it’ll be external it’s got to be consistently internal, and we are a relatively new bunch,” Dollar said. “Even though we may have some older guys, we’ve got a lot of newcomers. … It is a feeling out process and kind of a learning process, not only for the players but the coaches too.
“I’m very pleased that we continue to get better. The numbers will come as we continue to do what we’re supposed to do.”
Don’t get Dollar wrong. He wants to win and he wants to win now, but he’s also aware of the realities of what he signed up for when he left a job as Lorenzo Romar’s top assistant at Washington.
The Redhawks are a still developing program, one that won’t join a conference — the Western Athletic Conference — until next season. He didn’t come to Seattle U expecting things to happen overnight, and even though the win-loss record may not look good — Seattle U went 17-14 two years ago, then 11-19 last year — nights like Tuesday remind him that better times are ahead.
Two years ago, the Redhawks not only suffered a 123-76 loss to the Huskies, they had so many players foul out that they had to play the final minutes of the game with only four players on the court. On Tuesday, Seattle U still piled up fouls in bunches while playing pressing on defense for the entire second half, but this time the pressure was effective as Washington turned the ball over 11 times in the second half. After trailing by 14 points early in the second half, Seattle U tied the score 62-62 at the 11:05 mark, then again at 70-70 and 76-76. The game remained tight until the final minutes.
“I didn’t have to go to my four-man set today,” Dollar joked.
But all kidding aside, hanging with a big-time program like Washington — even in what has been a down year for the Huskies — is a step forward for a Seattle U team that wasn’t competitive with the Huskies in previous meetings since returning to Division I athletics.
“It’s just a big deal that we continue to improve and get better,” Dollar said. “It’s a good sign that it’s getting closer, but honestly, even if you win, you’ve got to continue to get better. The most important thing for us is to establish the right culture to where success is on autopilot, and that comes just from your daily habits and your daily belief system.”
The next step is obviously turning progress like the team showed Tuesday into victories, and while Seattle’s record certainly wouldn’t indicate it, Dollar and his players firmly believe better times are just around the corner.
“The last couple of games especially, (we’ve done) a lot of good things in the second half,” senior forward Aaron Broussard said. “So we’ve just got to learn how to put the whole 40 minutes together and we’ll be able to get some wins here pretty quick.”
Until Seattle U turns that corner, Dollar will remain confident that, losing record or not, the program is headed in the right direction.
“It’s not a woe-is-me deal,” he said. “I knew what I was getting into when I took it. I’m excited about the progress that we’ve made. … It takes time. So I’m extremely excited, despite what it looks like on the outside, for how we continue to progress.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.