The University of Redlands men's basketball team traveled to the University of La Verne for a Saturday afternoon showdown against the Leopards but suffered a difficult 58-59 loss to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) foes. During a tight competition that included nine ties and 13 lead-changes, the Bulldogs held a six-point advantage with 5:21 left on the clock. However, the Leopards stepped up to make critical scoring plays down the stretch, resulting in the Maroon and Gray's seventh one-possession loss of the season.
Redlands jumped out to a 6-0 lead with freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA), senior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia), and sophomore forward Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) each scoring a bucket.
But the Leopards quickly responded and forced a tie at seven apiece. From here, the squads traded baskets, with neither gaining much of an advantage through the first 13 minutes of the opening stanza.
La Verne garnered its largest lead of the game with a five-point spread on three-consecutive possessions, with the latest coming at 32-27 with 5:30 left on the clock.
However, Milligan answered for the Maroon and Gray by draining a bucket from beyond the arc to cut the deficit to two.
With the score stagnant for more than two minutes, Redlands ended the drought when sophomore guard Zack Whittet (Palm Desert, CA) hit a shot from downtown to put his team back in front at 33-32 with 2:43 remaining in the first half.
La Verne responded with a long ball of its own, before the teams scored on all three of the final possessions, giving the Bulldogs a slight 39-37 edge at the halftime break.
During the second stanza, the Maroon and Gray mustered a five- or six-point advantage on more than one occasion, with the final edge coming at 57-51 with 5:21 left. Milligan's two free-throws played a crucial role in extending the Bulldogs' lead at this juncture of the game.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs went on to score only one more point in the waning minutes, as Milligan converted the first of two free-throws at the one-minute-mark.
With the Leopards making four free-throws and converting a pair of jumpers down the stretch, they held onto the lead through the final 40 seconds.
Overall, La Verne shot 42.6% from the field, while the Bulldogs converted 38.5% of their attempts. However, Redlands was 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and 13-for-16 at the stripe.
Bjekovic finished with a game-high 17 points, along with six rebounds. Milligan backed him with 16 points on 4-for-9 shooting and a 7-for-8 effort at the charity stripe.
The Bulldogs managed the ball well by giving up only six turnovers on the night, as compared to La Verne's 15 mishandled possessions.
Redlands (5-17, 2-11 SCIAC) returns home to the friendly confines of Currier Gym on Tuesday, February 17, for a 7:30 p.m. conference battle against Chapman University.