The University of Redlands men's basketball team battled it out with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in Tuesday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown in Currier Gym. While holding the lead for nearly 10 minutes and sustaining a tie for almost five, the Bulldogs suffered a late-game scoring drought that provided just enough of a window for the Stags to pull away in the last few minutes of the game, resulting in the 56-71 loss for Redlands.
The Stags came out firing on all cylinders and knocked down five of their first six shots, which included four buckets from beyond the arc, to take an early 14-8 lead.
However, junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) and freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) teamed up to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance by cutting the deficit to 15-18 with 10:54 left in the first half.
On the Maroon and Gray's next possession, senior guard Connor Griffin (San Ramon, CA) pulled in an offensive rebound, allowing the team to take advantage of the reset. After the Bulldogs moved the ball around, senior guard Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) found Griffin, who promptly knocked down a three-pointer to tie it up at 18 apiece.
But the Stags responded by building a five-point lead at 27-22, forcing the Bulldogs to rally once again. This time sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) made back-to-back baskets to make it a one-point game.
The momentum stayed with the Maroon and Gray as it put together a 6-2 run as a result of key defensive plays. Bjekovic stole the ball away from the Stags to set up an O'Brien basket, before Milligan grabbed a big rebound that allowed sophomore forward Zack Whittet (Palm Desert, CA) to score on a lay-up.
After the Stags answered with four points of their own, the teams retreated into the locker room with the score knotted at 32 apiece.
By the end of the frame, Redlands had converted 50% of its shots and all five of its free-throws.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with great offensive rhythm, as Milligan converted a pair of shots from beyond the arc for a 39-34 advantage by the 17:25-mark.
A back-and-forth battle ensued, resulting in the seventh tie of the game at 47. Redlands regained the lead after Griffin knocked down another long ball from the far side of the court.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Stags rallied for a 14-3 run to create enough of a lead to keep the Maroon and Gray at bay. Tyler Gaffaney led the CMS charge by scoring 10 of his game-high 25 points during this spurt.
The Bulldogs were forced to foul but could never make up the difference, leading to the 56-71 loss.
Overall, Redlands shot 40.7% from the field, as compared to a slightly better showing by the Stags at 44.4%. O'Brien led the Maroon and Gray with 16 points, which came off of a 7-for-10 effort, to go along with three blocks. Milligan added 14 points and four rebounds, while Bjekovic provided 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
The Bulldogs handled the ball amazingly well, giving up only four turnovers on the night. In addition, the team dished out 14 assists, with Kengott serving as the primary facilitator with six.
Redlands (5-16, 2-10 SCIAC) heads to the University of La Verne on Saturday for a 4 p.m. SCIAC match-up against the Leopards.