The University of Redlands men's basketball squad faced off against the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen in Saturday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown in Currier Gym. Amidst a quality crowd, the Bulldogs remained neck-and-neck with the Kingsmen throughout the entire contest but ultimately fell late in the second half by a final score of 47-48.
The game started off slow for both teams on the offensive end, as they struggled to find an early rhythm. Senior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) was the main source of scoring for the Bulldogs, as he notched eight points in the first half. Two of his points came at the charity stripe midway through the stanza to bring the score to 14-14.
Sophomore guard Zack Whittet (Palm Desert, CA) knocked down a jumper to put the Maroon and Gray up by two points at 16-14 with six minutes remaining in the first stanza.
However, the Kingsmen strung together an 8-2 run in the final minutes, forcing the Bulldogs into a slight 18-22 deficit at halftime.
After Cal Lutheran notched the first basket of the second half, Redlands' Bjekovic was quick to answer as he knocked down a triple to bring the Bulldogs within three points at 21-24.
With the Bulldogs down by a mere point, Whittet stepped up in a crucial way by draining a three-pointer of his own to shift the lead back in the Bulldogs' favor at 29-27.
Both teams continued to trade off the lead, possession after possession. For Redlands, sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) worked his way to the line and buried two free-throws to aid a 35-34 Bulldog advantage with 10:06 left on the clock.
Cal Lutheran corralled the lead once again just seconds beyond the midway mark, but the Bulldogs remained within striking distance, compliments of four points from freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA). O'Brien continued to display excellent poise in the paint, as he laid a ball up and in off the glass for the Maroon and Gray lead at 42-41 with 5:37 left to play in the game.
However, CLU knocked down a three-pointer to take a 44-43 advantage and quickly erase the Bulldogs' lead. The short shift did not faze Bjekovic, as he nailed a fade-away jumper in the far, short corner to tie the game up at 45-45 with a smidge over two minutes to go.
After a missed jumper by the Kingsmen, O'Brien hauled in a crucial rebound and located senior guard Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) in stride for an outlet pass. Kengott drove the lane and successfully drew a foul to send him to the free-throw line.
With 55 seconds left on the clock, Kengott stepped up to the line and sank both free-throws with ease following a Cal Lutheran timeout to give the Bulldogs a 47-45 advantage.
However, CLU's Arik Smith answered with a big-time three-pointer with 43 seconds on the clock to give CLU a one-point advantage.
Despite four timeouts between the two teams, the Bulldogs' final play did not come to fruition as time expired, resulting in the difficult 47-48 defeat.
Bjekovic notched a double-double on the night after dropping a game-high 21 points and corralling a game-high 15 rebounds. Kengott chipped in seven points while going 3-for-4 from the charity stripe. Milligan provided five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in a gutsy defensive effort.
Overall, the Bulldogs shot 29.3% from the floor, as compared to the Kingsmen's 31.5% mark. In addition, Redlands owned the boards by out-rebounding Cal Lutheran, 48-33.
Redlands (5-15, 2-9 SCIAC) takes on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags (14-5, 7-2 SCIAC) on Tuesday, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Currier Gym.