The University of Redlands men's basketball team built a big lead during the first half on Saturday evening, but could not hold on in the second stanza as Occidental College came from behind to defeat the Bulldogs, 69-66. Rough shooting for the U of R combined with hot shooting in the second half for the Tigers resulted in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) loss for the Maroon and Gray.
Senior guard Ricky Peetz (Redlands, CA) began the game for the Bulldogs with a three-point shot to give the Bulldogs the early lead. Both teams traded buckets over the next several minutes, and with 14:05 remaining in the opening half, the Bulldogs led 12-9.
Redlands then went on a 13-3 run over the next five minutes, highlighted by five-consecutive points by senior forward Eric Radford (Federal Way, WA) and six-straight points from sophomore forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia).
The Bulldogs closed the half strong, and another long-range effort from Peetz and a late jumper from senior forward Alex Rudd (St. Louis, MO) put the Bulldogs up 39-24 at the break.
As a team, the U of R was very effective overall, shooting 53.3% from the field and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs also out-rebounded the Tigers, 18-13, and dished out more assists during the first 20 minutes, 8-3.
Occidental began mounting its comeback right away in the second half, cutting the deficit to just eight points after two minutes. At the 13:03 mark, Redlands' advantage was down to just four points, but Bjekovic then converted a layup opportunity before Rudd nailed a shot from downtown, helping to maintain the Bulldogs' lead.
After two free throws from freshman guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) and another layup from Rudd, Redlands was back up by 10 points with 10:19 remaining regulation.
Occidental made another run immediately after Rudd's layup, however, and took a 58-57 lead with 6:30 left on the clock. Peetz put Redlands back up with another three-pointer, but the Tigers answered with one of their own to regain the advantage.
Down the stretch, Occidental (10-11, 5-7 SCIAC) hung onto a slight lead, and with six seconds remaining, made two shots from the charity stripe to extend its advantage to three points.
The Maroon and Gray got one final look to tie the game at the buzzer, but Rudd's shot missed its mark, resulting in the tough loss for the Bulldogs.
The difference in the game proved to be at the free-throw line, where Redlands went just 10-of-18, while the Tigers went 15-of-20 from the charity stripe. Overall, the Bulldogs shot 43.6% from the field, while holding Occidental to just a 38.6% effort overall. The Tigers did, however, make 10 three-pointers compared to just eight for the Maroon and Gray.
Individually, Bjekovic notched another double-double with 21 points and 13 boards, while Peetz contributed 12 points, two assists and two steals. Additionally, Rudd tallied 11 points off the bench.
The U of R (8-13, 4-8 SCIAC) returns home on Wednesday, February 12, for another SCIAC matchup with Cal Lutheran University (17-5, 8-5 SCIAC). Tipoff against the Kingsmen is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Currier Gym.