The University of Redlands men's basketball team squared off against the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs on Tuesday night in a non-conference showdown at the Purple & Gold Poet Classic in Whittier. A slow start plagued both teams, but the Bulldogs' woes continued a bit longer, leading to the 57-68 loss in the season's second meeting for these regional foes.
Both squads failed to score in the opening three minutes of the game, revealing the defensive nature of the contest.
With the score tied at nine apiece with 13 minutes to go in the first half, the Banana Slugs strung together a small 5-0 run to take a 14-9 advantage.
However, junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) put an end to UCSC's scoring spurt by draining a three-pointer to pull the Bulldogs within two points of the lead. Freshman guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) followed suit by sinking a free-throw and later knocking down a jumper, which helped Redlands to gain a 15-14 advantage with 9:20 remaining in the first half.
But the Bulldogs' lead was short-lived, as Santa Cruz put together another offensive run late in the first frame to make it 29-20 in favor of the Banana Slugs at the break.
The start of the second stanza was quite the opposite of the first, as the Maroon and Gray fired off a 7-2 run to make it 27-31 after just 60 seconds. Sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR), junior center Shawn James (Plano, TX), and senior guard Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) all contributed points during this quick offensive outburst.
Less than a minute later, another S. Milligan bucket made it a four-point game but the hot offense suddenly went cold over the next six minutes, with UCSC capitalizing on a 13-2 run for the 46-31 lead.
Redlands worked to cut the deficit to five on more than one occasion, with the latest coming off of a tip-in by junior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) with 2:28 left on the clock.
However, the Banana Slugs converted a late three-pointer for their 61-53 advantage, forcing the Maroon and Gray to foul down the stretch. UCSC knocked down seven of its final nine shots from the charity stripe, providing enough cushion against the Bulldogs' comeback efforts.
For Redlands, Bjekovic finished with a double-double by dropping a team-high 17 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. S. Milligan clocked quality minutes by notching 13 points to go along with four rebounds.
The Bulldogs (3-6) open Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) competition on Saturday, January 3, when they travel to Claremont to take on Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges at 7 p.m. Due to construction at CMS, the game will take place at the Rains Center on the Pomona-Pitzer Colleges' campus.