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Seattle University Loses a Heartbreaker Despite Increased Defensive Intensity

With time running out and her team down 50-47 to NAIA #21 Concordia College, Seattle University senior point guard Cassidy Murillo popped open on the left wing behind a screen, set her feet, and got an open look at what would have been a game tying three.

As the ball careened off the back rim, that jarring feeling of rapidly intensifying hope suddenly dissolving into disappointment filled the Connolly Center and was briefly visible on Murillo’s face before heading to the sidelines to join her team in congratulating Concordia. Although the shot didn’t go down – sending Seattle U to an 0-2 start to their season -- it’s difficult to ask for anything better than a wide open three from Murillo, whose 41.7% career three point percentage is third all-time for Seattle U.

"We ran an offensive set and we knew we had to shoot the three," said Seattle U coach Joan Bonvicini. "We had a lot of different options and Cassidy, that was a good shot for her."

It was a disappointing end to an amazing comeback effort by Seattle U. Down 44-32 and shooting an abysmal 3 for 23 with 5:47 left in the second half, the Redhawks went on a 13-3 run to bring themselves within two points with 1:31 left.

It was Murillo who catalyzed the run with about five minutes left by jumping in front of a pass from Concordia point guard Leilanie Lewis to the wing and racing out ahead of everyone to draw the foul on a fast break lay up. The play was a harbinger how things would unfold over the stretch run -- the Redhawks clawed their way back into the game with a combination of increased defensive intensity and finding solace at the free throw line.

However, it was ultimately too little too late as a three from sophomore guard Rachel Scarpelli on a drive and kick from junior forward Danielle Clauson put Concordia up 50-45 with 31 seconds left, which proved to be enough of a cushion to take home a win.

"We gave a great effort in the last five minutes, but what we gotta do is do that for 40 minutes," said Bonvicini. "And obviously, I really liked our defensive intensity. I liked the way we pressured the ball. I liked the way we forced action and forced turnovers and dominated the boards."

Over the last 5:47, Seattle U not only shot 9-11 from the free-throw line and 4-7 from the field over the last five minutes but also got four steals from Murillo, which allowed them to both disrupt Concordia’s offense while finding their own offensive rhythm. In addition to the increased defensive intensity and free throw attempts, the Redhawks got six points in the post from junior center Tatiana Heck, including two strong post moves on the right block with under three minutes left.

"Tat played great – particularly great in the last five minutes," said Bonvicini. "I thought that Tatiana did a better job making moves to her player – reading defense, going at her – and it was much better."

The ability to get high percentage shots – whether it was from fast break lay-ups from Murillo, Heck posting up on the low block, or getting to the free throw line – was the key to the Redhawks’ success during their late-game run. The problem they faced throughout the game – and a problem that is likely to persist over the course of the season – was dealing with bigger players as an undersized team. Last night, the post challenge came in the form of 6’4" Concordia senior post player Ann Snodderly.

Size in the post again gives Seattle U problems

Concordia began the second half with a six-minute 11-2 run that got them a 39-28 lead with 14:06 left. During the run, Snodderly’s length gave Seattle U problems on both ends of the floor.

Snodderly was not only responsible for six points during the run, but also made two defensive stops on the 6’1" Heck in the post. While the lanky Snodderly was not as strong in post as UC Davis’ Paige Mintun -- who recorded 16 points on 6-7 shooting in Seattle U’s 71-49 loss Friday night -- her 6’4" stature and long arms allowed her to shoot over the Seattle U defenders once she got the ball near the basket.

Over a three minute stretch during their run, Snodderly demonstrated the ability to score in a variety ways. With just under 18 minutes left in the half, she found an opening the defense, cut to the basket and scored a layup off a nice pass from Clauson. With 15:49 left, she scored by patiently establishing position, turning and using her wingspan to advantage with a short hook. On the final basket of the run, she extended her arm just enough to barely grab a high inbounds pass with one hand, and kept the ball high enough to shoot over reserve center Carley Butcher.

She was able to use her height and length defensively as well, literally holding her ground with arms outstretched to stop Heck on two consecutive layup attempts in the post with just under 17 minutes left. It’s not that Snodderly is necessarily a dominant player, but she gave the Redhawks fits with her size.

Moving forward after an 0-2 start

After Friday night’s loss to UC Davis, Bonvicini commented that the best thing about college basketball in comparison to football is that opportunities for redemption come much more quickly.

"You know the good thing about basketball versus football is you take a tough loss and you gotta wait a week in football, but the good thing for us is we have one tomorrow," said Bonvicini. "So this is one we have to learn from, but it’s also we have a chance to get better."

After shaking off the "first game jitters" in their season opener against Davis, SU had an opportunity for redemption last night against Concordia and did show improved defensive intensity and offensive execution in spurts. However, with even bigger Purdue, Georgetown, and Dayton teams coming up as part of next weekend’s Purdue Traveler’s Tournament, there doesn’t figure to be a respite from the challenges in the post for Seattle U.

Related links:

Long-Distance Shooting Keys Concordia Win Over Seattle University

Transition Points:

  • Senior forward Ashley Brown -- who scored 13 points on Friday night against UC Davis -- was out due to illness last night, according to Bonvicini. "She has a kidney infection so she’s out," said Bonvicini. "Hopefully we’ll have her back if not Monday, then by Tuesday."
  • Concordia freshman post player Grace Cappleman, a Seattlite who went to Roosevelt High School – the school you may recall from the outstanding documentary The Heart of the Game -- got a nice applause from a group of parents when she entered the game with 3:30 left in the first half. Fellow Roosevelt alum Frannie Hemmelgarn is currently redshirting the 2009-10 season for Seattle U. With 7:43 left in the second half, Roosevelt High School parents in attendance were thanked for their support of Seattle U basketball.