The University of Redlands men's basketball team welcomed the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges Stags to Currier Gym to open Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action on Wednesday night. Despite a 12-point deficit at halftime, the Bulldogs came out in full force to knock down an incredible 52 points on 55.6% shooting in the second half for the 72-67 victory.
The Stags got off to a hot start as they sank a three-pointer just six seconds into the game. Minutes later, the Bulldogs settled into a nice rhythm, matching CMS point-for-point. A lay-up by senior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) and a trey-ball off the hands of junior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) tied it at five apiece.
The Stags took advantage of Bulldog turnovers to go on an 8-0 run, which forced the home team to play from behind. Sponheim did all he could to keep his team within striking distance, personally supplying 12 of Redlands' 20 points in the first half. CMS' shots kept falling to eventually put Redlands in a 20-32 hole at the half.
After an energizing halftime speech from Head Coach Jim Ducey, the Bulldogs exited the locker room ready for action. Sophomore forward Jesse Wims (London, England) stepped back and hit a nothing-but-net shot from downtown to start the second half on a positive note.
At the 16:48-mark, junior forward Trevor Brown (San Mateo, CA) hauled in an offensive rebound and dished it out to Sponheim, who found Wims on the perimeter. Wims successfully converted his second trey-ball of the night to help Redlands chip away at the deficit and make it a 32-39 ball game.
After Redlands made a pair of free-throws, Husslein swiped a steal on the Stags' ensuing possession. The Bulldogs worked the ball around, as junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) found an open first-year guard Jacob Russell (Boise, ID) for the much-needed bucket from downtown.
With 13:10 left in the game, Husslein drove to the basket for a crafty lay-up to tie the score at 41-all. Just a minute later, Sponheim hit yet another shot from beyond the arc to give the Maroon and Gray its first lead of the night at 44-41. Russell followed suit by sinking a jumper for a six-point Redlands lead.
Menary left his mark on the game by corralling a loose ball that Russell had tipped out of the Stags' hands. Menary subsequently lit up Currier with a dunk.
A tight battle ensued, as the teams matched each other point-for-point. The Stags took a slight lead, but the Bulldogs remained hot on their trail when senior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) converted lay-ups and Menary snagged an offensive board for the tip-in to make it 57-59.
The Stags' shots kept falling, but Husslein and O'Brien were both a perfect two-for-two from the charity stripe to keep the home team within two at 61-63. On an ensuing Bulldog offensive drive, with the shot clock winding down, O'Brien tossed up a three-pointer that swished through the net for the slight lead with 1:20 left in the game.
Both teams traded buckets, before Russell drove hard to the basket for the successful lay-up with just 19 second on the clock to make it 68-66.
Redlands came out on top of a late free-throw battle in the final eight seconds of the game, with Sponheim and O'Brien making both of their shots, which lifted the Bulldogs past CMS, 72-67.
Sponheim paced the Bulldogs with 19 points, with O'Brien closely following with 14.
The Bulldogs (2-4, 1-0) hit the road for their next game against non-conference competitor Hope International University on Monday, December 18. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. in Fullerton.