One win from March Madness.
Isiah Umipig’s 30 points led the Seattle University men to a 69-63 win over Missouri-Kansas City in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tourney Friday night at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, meaning a victory over regular-season champion New Mexico State Saturday in the finals would send the Redhawks into the NCAA tournament next week.
The Redhawks, then the Chieftains, haven’t been to the tourney since 1968. The WAC post-season tourney winner receives the league’s automatic entry.
The Redhawks finished the regular season at 14-14, then beat Chicago State (8-24) 49-45 Thursday night before meeting the 14-18 Kangaroos. Umipig hit an astonishing seven of eight three-pointers in the first half to give Seattle U a 34-18 intermission lead over the cold-shooting ‘Roos (27 percent from the field) for a wire-to-wire triumph.
Top-seeded New Mexico State (22-10) made its fourth consecutive WAC championship game by defeating Cal State Bakersfield 57-53 earlier in the day, led by South African Tshilidzi Nephawe’w 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Aggies meet SU at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU, 770 AM).
The Aggies are on a 12-game winning streak, but their last defeat was Jan. 17 when they lost 58-52 to Seattle U at KeyArena — one of eight sites for the Big Dance’s second/third rounds next week. New Mexico State returned the favor at home Feb. 17, 73-47.