The University of Redlands men's basketball team hosted an exciting Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown against the No. 22 Chapman University Panthers in Currier Gym on Tuesday night. After trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, the Maroon and Gray stormed back to secure a 62-59 victory by knocking down crucial shots when needed the most.
The Bulldogs held the lead for the majority of the first 10 minutes of action, as junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) notched Redlands' first six points of the game. Freshman guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) buried a clutch three-pointer to help the Bulldogs maintain a two-point advantage at 9-7 with 13 minutes remaining.
Following the midway point of the first half, the Panthers fired off a 15-3 run to garner their largest lead of the game at 25-13 with four minutes to go.
Nevertheless, the U of R strung together a quality run of its own, outscoring the visitors by a 13-3 margin in the final minutes of the game to cut the deficit to two by the halftime break. Junior center Shawn James (Plano, TX) and freshman forward Will Tender (Spokane, WA) combined for five points at the charity stripe, while Husslein knocked down his second triple of the game to along with a jumper, bringing the score to 26-28 at halftime.
The Bulldogs maintained their positive momentum from the first half by performing fundamental basketball on both ends of the hardwood throughout the second stanza. Junior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) dished a pass to senior guard Connor Griffin (San Roman, CA) off of a cut to the hoop to grab the first points of the second stanza and tie the game up at 28 apiece.
Freshman Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) put on a show in the low post by utilizing the up-and-under move to notch back-to-back-to-back buckets on consecutive possessions, putting the Bulldogs up by a score of 34-31 with 16:47 remaining.
The Panthers fought to tie the contest up at 37-all, but the Bulldogs continued to battle to reclaim the lead. Sophomore guard Zack Whittet (Palm Desert, CA) and Bjekovic teamed up for seven points in a minute of work for a 48-44 advantage. Bjekovic was a monstrous force down low, grabbing three offensive rebounds for put-backs, eventually earning a 51-46 Redlands lead.
Down the stretch, the Bulldogs successfully executed clutch shots when the pressure was on, which included converting 8-of-10 free throws in the final 20 minutes en route to an exciting 62-59 victory.
In an all-around team effort, the Bulldogs shot 43% from the field and 71.4% from the stripe. Redlands won the rebounding battle with a 41-to-25 margin. This included eight more on the offensive end as well.
Bjekovic recorded a double–double after notching 17 points and snagging 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Husslein dropped a career-high 14 points to go along with four rebounds and one steal. O'Brien finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Whittet contributed seven points in 30 minutes of action.
The Bulldogs continue SCIAC action on Saturday, February 21, as they play host to the Pomona-Pitzer Colleges Sagehens (9-14, 7-7 SCIAC) at 7:30 p.m. in Currier Gym.