2010-11 Summary: Bulldog Men’s Basketball Makes History with SCIAC Title and NCAA Appearance
Amidst an exciting and historical ride to the NCAA tournament, the University of Redlands men's basketball team put together a remarkable season that it will soon not forget. With a stacked class of seniors leading the way, the Maroon and Gray recorded an impressive 11-3 mark in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) competition to complement its 16-12 overall showing. While performing at the top of their game, the Bulldogs captured the program's first conference title since the 1989-90 campaign. In addition, Redlands ran the table during its inaugural appearance at the SCIAC Postseason Tournament and posted its third victory of the season over rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges to punch its ticket to the NCAA Championships.
The team's strong campaign began with a somewhat prophetic showing against NCAA Division I opponent, Cal State Northridge, in an exhibition that required overtime to determine the victor. Although Redlands fell to the Matadors, this overall successful outing set the stage for an incredible season.
Nonetheless, the Bulldogs faced a three-game setback when they recorded losses to NAIA powers Biola University and Cal Baptist University, as well as regional rival Chapman University.
The Maroon and Gray got back on track during the 63rd Annual Lee Fulmer Memorial Tournament by taking down Southwestern College (AZ) and UC Santa Cruz to advance to the tournament final. Redlands secured its first win of the 2010-11 season with a solid 95-75 showing against the Eagles. Against the Banana Slugs, sophomore guard Tristan Kirk (Redlands, CA) and senior center Jordan Sanvictores (Redwood City, CA) carried the offensive load for Redlands, providing 19 and 18 points, respectively. However, a clutch three-pointer by senior guard Kent Ervin (Bend, OR) put the Bulldogs back on top at 76-74 with 1:36 remaining in the game, allowing them to eventually earn a 79-76 victory.
This propelled Redlands into a familiar match-up with Chapman for the Lee Fulmer tournament title. With neither team performing admirably, the Panthers broke a 25-all halftime tie by coming out as an incredibly efficient scoring squad while the Bulldogs suffered an offensive drought through the first five minutes of the second stanza. The Maroon and Gray struggled to overcome the hot hands of the Panthers, falling by a 57-70 decision.
With consistent and impressive efforts, Kirk landed on the All-Tournament team after leading his squad in scoring throughout the three-day event.
The Bulldogs finished out the 2010 portion of the non-conference season with a quartet of difficult losses to quality opponents from all levels, including NCAA Division I Pepperdine University.
Redlands finally snapped its skid during a gut-check opportunity against Southwestern on January 4. While rediscovering their rhythm after the holiday break, the Bulldogs mustered a three-point victory over a talented and determined Eagle squad. Redlands overcame a 10-point deficit by shooting 55.6% in the second stanza while holding the Eagles to a mere 25.9%. Sophomore guard Brian Kuklok (Poway, CA) lit up the scoreboard with four three-pointers en route to a career-high 20 points. All but six of his points came in the second half.
Just eight days later, Redlands began the long and emotional road to an eventual conference championship with its first SCIAC game of the season. With three players in double figures and the bench accounting for 26 points, Redlands boasted a well-rounded attack that thrived on every switch in the lineup against Cal Lutheran University. With the game tied at 57 with 2:57 remaining, the Bulldogs gained critical free-throws from junior center Jack Colston (Dana Point, CA) and Kirk down the stretch, leading to the 64-58 victory.
In what some might have called an automatic win, the Bulldogs faced another test of their character when they traveled to Pasadena to face a determined Caltech team on January 12. Relying on a 45.0% shooting display, including a 58.3% performance from long range, Redlands prevailed in a 71-67 overtime thriller against the Beavers. Senior forward Andrew Mills (Newcastle, WA) led the charge with a career-tying 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Caltech went on to eventually halt its multi-decade conference losing streak during the final game of the season.
Playing in back-to-back road contests, the Maroon and Gray overcame an early eight-point deficit and eventually enjoyed an 11-0 run in the second half to defeat the Tigers of Occidental College by a score of 58-49. During this scoring spurt, the team went 6-for-8 from the charity stripe and senior forward Matt Dietrich (Phoenix, AZ) nailed his second three-pointer of the night. Mills upped the ante on his career numbers with an 18-point display against the Tigers.
Following a minor relapse against a stingy squad from the University of La Verne, the Bulldogs rattled off critical victories over Whittier College, Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and CMS. On the heels of senior center Jordan Sanvictores' (Redwood City, CA) career-high 27 points, the team captured an exciting 83-66 victory over the visiting Poets to initiate this stretch of wins.
Benefitting from this momentum, Redlands knocked off the Sagehens and Stags by similar margins of nine and 10 points, respectively. Against Pomona-Pitzer, Kuklok uncorked six three-pointers for a 20-point outburst that included all but two of the team's long-range baskets and equaled his career-high performance. Redlands also celebrated its first win against the Stags since 2007 while giving the Bulldog senior class its inaugural victory over the conference rival.
With a 6-1 showing midway through the conference schedule, the Maroon and Gray now sat in a tie with CMS for first place in the standings.
During the second round of SCIAC, Redlands came up short in a heated battle against Occidental, which was ultimately decided in the final seconds. In addition to handing this loss to Redlands, the Tigers stepped up to later defeat CMS and La Verne to make the conference standings even more complicated with the top three teams having at least two defeats.
However, the Maroon and Gray responded by handily taking care of Caltech and Whittier to remain in a tie at the top of the conference.
The emotional rollercoaster of the season's final weeks continued when Redlands faltered to Cal Lutheran, slipping into second place. After cutting a late 15-point deficit to three, the Bulldog offense struggled to convert its final opportunities while CLU was nearly perfect from the line, resulting in the Maroon and Gray's third conference loss of the season. Despite Sanvictores' 18 points and nine rebounds, Redlands struggled to shut down the Kingsmen's 51% shooting display.
This propelled Redlands into a must-win situation against CMS during a highly-anticipated showdown in Currier Gym on February 16. The Bulldogs stepped up with a huge 77-69 victory over their rivals, resulting in a season sweep of the Stags for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign while forcing a familiar tie atop the SCIAC standings. With the game tied at 55 with less than nine minutes to go, Redlands stepped up with critical shots over the next three minutes, creating a nine-point swing in favor of the Bulldogs. Sanvictores played a pivotal role in this momentum shift, rejecting one Stag shot and scoring five points. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds during this hard-fought victory.
With two games to play, Redlands held the head-to-head advantage over CMS but still needed to take care of business. Amidst the excitement of "Senior Night," the Bulldogs rattled off seven unanswered points in overtime to eventually capture a 64-57 win against the visiting Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer. While competing in front of a fiery and loud Currier crowd, Dietrich finished out his last home conference game with a team-leading 18-point, 10-rebound effort.
Faced with just one more step to secure that elusive SCIAC Championship, the Maroon and Gray headed to La Verne for the final game of the regular season. Despite playing on the road, Redlands left no doubt and recorded a 57-46 victory against the Leopards to capture the program's 19th conference title.
Awarded the top seed in its first-ever appearance at the SCIAC Postseason Tournament, Redlands excitedly faced Cal Lutheran in a sweet opportunity to avenge one of their three conference losses. The Bulldogs stretched an early two-point lead to as many as 22 points en route to a solid 68-58 victory over the fourth-seeded Kingsmen. Senior guard Patrick Keating (Fountain Hills, AZ) posted double-digit assists for the first time in his career with 10 dishes.
With the head-to-head advantage over CMS, Redlands earned the privilege of hosting the championship game against the Stags on the following night. Amidst a raucous Redlands crowd, the Bulldogs faced an early 4-8 deficit but responded with 17 unanswered points to create a lead that they would sustain through the final whistle. Senior forward Stephen Call (Portola Valley, CA) hit two of his baskets from beyond the arc during this span. Although CMS kept it interesting by closing within two points at the 10-minute mark, Redlands finally stretched its lead to 11 with consecutive three-pointers by Colston and Call with 5:43 left in the second stanza.
By putting their 63-54 victory over the Stags in the books, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the "big dance" for the first time since the 1984-85 season when then-head coach Gary Smith led the Maroon and Gray to a third-place finish at the NCAA West Regional.
Unfortunately, Redlands' storied season came to an abrupt end when the Bulldogs stumbled to No. 12 Chapman in the first round of the NCAA tournament. While struggling to find any offensive rhythm, the Maroon and Gray fell short against the favored home team in a 38-62 decision. The bright spot for the Bulldogs came in the first five minutes of the second stanza when they rallied from 10 points down to close within one. During this span, Sanvictores stepped up with five straight points while Kirk added a three-point play. Call brought the Bulldog fans to their feet when he drained a shot from long range to make it 27-28. However, Chapman quickly responded with a 10-0 run to push its lead to 11, and never looked back.
Outside of the team's numerous accomplishments, a trio of individuals gained recognition for their contributions during this historical run. Mills was named the SCIAC Player of the Year, while Kirk landed on the All-Conference First Team and Sanvictores collected Second-Team honors. With three honorees, this marked the most All-SCIAC recipients by the Bulldog men's basketball program since the 1990-91 season. In addition, Mills garnered his inaugural All-West Region nod with a spot on D3hoops.com's Third Team.
Although the loss of the senior class appears insurmountable, the squad returns a talented group of players who have tasted the sweetness of success. With this season's experience serving as an infallible foundation, the future of Bulldog men's basketball rests in capable and determined hands. Under the guidance of Head Coach Jim Ducey, Redlands looks forward to defending its coveted title while raising the bar for excellence in the coming seasons.