The University of Redlands men's basketball team traveled to Claremont on Tuesday for a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown against the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. Despite leading through the first 27 minutes of action, the Bulldogs faltered in the second stanza en route to the tough 52-54 loss.
Redlands jumped out to a 9-0 lead with junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) setting the offensive tone by scoring seven points in the first four minutes.
Ten minutes later, the Maroon and Gray remained in front at 17-15 before a made free-throw by senior guard Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) and a three-pointer from freshman guard Max Melder (Sierra Vista, AZ) extended the Redlands lead to six points with 3:01 to go.
Bjekovic continued to shine in the waning minutes of the half, scoring four more points for the Bulldogs' 25-18 lead at the break.
During the early part of the second stanza, the Sagehens found their offensive rhythm, while Redlands struggled to maintain possession, which opened the door for a Pomona-Pitzer comeback. The home team snagged its first lead of the game at 29-28 with 16:41 left on the clock.
A back-and-forth battle ensued, with the score becoming knotted at 38 apiece at the 7:44-mark.
Michael Cohen's long-range shooting propelled the Sagehens on a 10-2 to run over the next three minutes, forcing the Bulldogs to play catch-up for the first time in the game.
Senior guard Connor Griffin's (San Ramon, CA) well-timed three-pointer put the Maroon and Gray right back in the action and inspired back-to-back buckets by Kengott, making it a one-point game with 3:10 left on the clock.
However, the Sagehens went to the line eight times in the final minutes and converted six of their opportunities, proving to be the difference in the tight score.
With neither team shooting particularly well from the field, Pomona-Pitzer held the edge at the charity stripe by knocking down 18 of its 27 chances. The Sagehens also hit twice as many three-pointers in the game.
Redlands out-rebounded the opponents by a 44-to-34 margin, including a 13-to-4 advantage on the offensive end.
Bjekovic led the Maroon and Gray with his 20-point, five-rebound effort. Freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) and Kengott chipped in eight points apiece, while junior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) dished out five assists for the Bulldogs.
For Pomona-Pitzer (3-12, 1-5 SCIAC), Cohen came off the bench for a game-high 21 points while converting five buckets from downtown.
Redlands (5-9, 2-3 SCIAC) returns to the familiar surroundings of Currier Gym on Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. match-up against the Whittier College Poets.