U of R Men’s Basketball Falls to Whittier, 75-86

Aljosa Bjekovic led the way for the Bulldogs with 24 points and 11 rebounds.  (Photo Credit:  Beth Doolittle)
Aljosa Bjekovic led the way for the Bulldogs with 24 points and 11 rebounds. (Photo Credit: Beth Doolittle)

The University of Redlands men's basketball team continued its Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) campaign on the road against Whittier College on Wednesday evening, but the Bulldogs fell victim to the Poets' big second half en route to the 75-86 defeat.  After winning two of its first three conference contests of the New Year, Redlands has now faltered in two-consecutive SCIAC games for the first time this season.

The Maroon and Gray got off to a slow start in the first half, falling behind 6-13 after the first five minutes.  Sophomore forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) and senior guard Ricky Peetz (Redlands, CA) provided the response for the Bulldogs and drained back-to-back long-range efforts to pull Redlands to within one.  A Bjekovic layup then gave the U of R the one-point lead midway through the first stanza.

The two sides traded buckets, but then Maroon and Gray senior forward Alex Rudd (St. Louis, MO) came off the bench and nailed a three-pointer, making it 19-18 in Redlands' favor.

Later in the half, senior forward Eric Radford (Federal Way, WA) hit another shot from downtown for the Bulldogs before both Peetz and Bjekovic added a three-pointer each to push Redlands in front at the break, 36-32.

During the first 20 minutes, the Bulldogs shot 41.9% from the field as a team and 33.3% from downtown with six shots from distance converted.  Redlands also held the rebounding advantage, 25-18, over the Poets who shot only 32.4% from the field.

The U of R started the second half very strong, extending its lead to seven points after Rudd sank another shot from beyond the arc with 13:56 remaining in regulation.  A couple of minutes later, Redlands led by six points at 53-47, but then the Bulldogs went cold from the field.

Over the next three minutes, the Poets caught fire and went on a 15-0 run to regain the lead.  Radford helped to stop the bleeding for the Bulldogs and nailed three shots from downtown in a 50-second span, bringing the Bulldogs back to within six points with just over six minutes left on the clock.

With under two minutes remaining, Redlands continued its comeback effort and Rudd hit a shot from deep to cut a 10-point deficit to 73-80, but the Bulldogs went cold again after that and the Poets made the necessary free throws en route to the conference loss for the Maroon and Gray.

As a team, the U of R shot 38.8% from the field overall, and 35.9% from downtown (14-of-39).  Individually, Bjekovic scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed a team-best 11 boards.  Off the bench, Rudd provided 20 points and Radford notched 16 points on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting night and a perfect 4-for-4 effort from beyond the arc.  Additionally, Peetz tallied 14 points and two assists.

For Whittier (10-6, 4-3 SCIAC), Nick Demusis led the way with 31 points and 11 rebounds, while Chris Barnes-Williams registered 17 points on the evening.

Redlands (7-9, 3-4 SCIAC) returns to the court on Saturday evening when it hosts Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (11-4, 6-0 SCIAC) in Currier Gym.  Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Family Fun Night!  Be sure to arrive early in order to get involved in all of the night's activities.