Bulldog Men's Basketball Flexes Second-Half Strength in 82-77 Triumph over Bristol

Will Tender contributed 10 points off the bench, including two at the stripe.  Redlands converted 24 free-throws in the win over Bristol.
Will Tender contributed 10 points off the bench, including two at the stripe. Redlands converted 24 free-throws in the win over Bristol.

The University of Redlands men's basketball team faced off against the Bristol University Bears in a non-conference showdown on Tuesday night in Currier Gym. After trailing for the majority of the first half, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead in the early minutes of the second half and did not let up, ultimately defeating the Bears by a score of 82-77.

In the early minutes of the game, junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) knocked down a jumper to put the Bulldogs ahead at 6-4, compliments of an assist by junior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR).

However, the Bears strung together a 18-2 run for a sizeable lead before Redlands' sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) snapped that streak by laying the ball up and in off the glass for two points.

In the final two minutes of the first half, the Bulldogs cut the deficit down to seven as freshman forward Will Tender (Spokane, WA) used the backboard for two points, followed by two clutch free-throws from Bjekovic. The Bears' lead began to quickly diminish after sophomore forward Ryan Borak (Yorba Linda, CA) snapped the bottom of the net for two points, leading to a Bristol timeout with 20 seconds left in the first stanza.

After the Maroon and Gray forced a Bears' turnover on the ensuing possession, Redlands inbounded the ball on their own baseline with two seconds left on the game clock. With a beautifully lofted pass to center court, K. Milligan rose up and quickly dished the ball out to freshman guard Jay Staudacher (Kirkland, WA), who nailed a buzzer beater just in front of the three point arc to pull the Bulldogs within three at 30-33 at the break. This proved to be a game-changer play for Redlands, which opened the second half with a newfound passion for the competition.

The Bulldogs quickly overtook the lead in the very early stages of the second half, as S. Milligan and Bjekovic laid up back-two-back baskets, grabbing their first lead of the game since the 18:05-mark of the first half.

A physical contest ensued, as a combined 35 fouls were called in the second frame. This physical nature of play did not faze the Bulldogs, as they shot 69.6% overall from the charity stripe, with 18 points coming from the free-throw line in the second half alone.

Once the Bulldogs grabbed the lead, they never looked back, grasping on to an 82-77 victory. Bjekovic served as the main offensive option in the second half by dropping 19 points while going 5-for-7 from the floor and hitting all nine of his free throws. The junior forward finished the night with a game-high 30 points to go along with four rebounds.

S. Milligan put together a solid performance by totaling 14 points at game's end. Tender was a solid contributor off the bench with his 10-point, six-rebound showing. Freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) chipped in a clutch six points, as he showed off his range by knocking down a pair of 15-foot jumpers to help the Bulldogs sustain their second-half momentum. K. Milligan served a key role in finding the open man, accounting for eight of the team's 16 assists.

The Bulldogs (3-4) continue non-conference action on Monday-Tuesday, December 29-30, when they travel to Whittier for the Purple & Gold Classic, beginning with Albion College (MI) at 6 p.m.