The University of Redlands men's basketball team hosted the Whittier College Poets during Monday night's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) match-up in Currier Gym. After leading for most of the game, the Bulldogs struggled to hold off the Poets' late-game surge and ultimately fell in a heartbreaker by a score of 88-91.
Redlands knocked down six of its first eight shots and eventually went 9-for-12 in the opening eight minutes to secure its biggest lead of the night at 27-15. Seven different Bulldogs scored during this hot start, with sophomore forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA), junior guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ), and junior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) recording six points apiece.
Following Whittier's three-pointer on its ensuing possession, neither team mustered a basket over the next two minutes, when the Poets finally fired off a nine-point run to tie it up at 27 apiece.
But Redlands answered with a 13-6 scoring spurt that included a pair of three-pointers by Sponheim and another by sophomore guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA).
Although the Poets clawed back, Berry, Menary, Sponheim, and first-year guard Jacob Russell (Boise, ID) provided key buckets down the stretch to allow the Bulldogs to hold a 47-43 advantage at the halftime break.
Redlands kept its distance early in the second half, as senior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) drove the lane in traffic for the lay-up before Sponheim found an open Baker beyond the arc to make it 52-45. Menary, Berry, Baker, and Sponheim kept clicking on offense, with the Bulldogs leading by a score of 67-59 with 12:39 left in the game.
But the Poets continued to fight and managed to out-score the Maroon and Gray, 17-8, to finally overtake the home team by a score of 76-75.
A back-and-forth battle ensued over the next six minutes, with Redlands regaining the lead at 86-85 off of back-to-back buckets from Sponheim's assists. First, Baker knocked down a three-pointer before Menary found space in the lane for the lay-up.
Although the teams traded buckets in the final 120 seconds, the Poets made their way to the charity stripe six times and converted four free-throws to provide the difference. Redlands had its chances to equalize the score on more than one occasion but the shots would not fall.
Baker led all players with 25 points, which included six baskets from downtown. Sponheim provided a 20-point effort that was highlighted by a 63.6% shooting performance. He also dished out six assists. Menary registered a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds to go along with five assists. Berry paced the Bulldogs' bench with 11 points and six rebounds.
Redlands (4-9, 2-3 SCIAC) takes on the Leopards of the University of La Verne on Wednesday, January 10, at 7 p.m. in Currier Gym.