The University of Redlands men's basketball team played its final Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) home game on Saturday night by facing off against the Pomona-Pitzer Colleges Sagehens. After facing an 11-point deficit at halftime, the Bulldogs completed a comeback to corral a 71-62 victory on a night that honored senior guards Marco Kengott (San Diego, CA) and Connor Griffin (San Roman, CA), who were playing in Currier Gym for the final time.
The Bulldogs struggled to knock down any shots in the first half, as they faced a 15-point hole with 6:40 left in the frame. Freshman center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) and junior center Shawn James (Plano, TX) sank two jumpers each, while junior forward Aljosa Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) buried a triple to cut the deficit to 11 points at 17-28 by the end of the half.
After going back to the drawing board in the locker room, the Bulldogs opened the second stanza with fire in their bellies. Redlands rallied to string together an 11-5 run, during which Bjekovic knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to cut the deficit down to six at 25-31.
Moments later, sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) cashed in two points at the free-throw line, while O'Brien and Griffin hit a free-throw each to trim the Sagehen lead to 29-33. S. Milligan followed with a bucket to make it a two-point game with 13:39 remaining in the second half.
After O'Brien notched a quick four points to knot the score at 37 apiece, freshman forward Will Tender (Spokane, WA) buried two clutch free-throws to grab the Bulldogs' first lead of the game at 39-37.
Bjekovic remained red-hot from beyond the arc, as he nailed two more buckets from range, along with a pair of free-throws for an eight-point spurt in a three-minute period. O'Brien remained highly active as well, draining a fade-away jumper at the top of the key to aid a 51-43 Redlands lead with 4:49 left to go in the game.
With time acting against them, the Sagehens began to actively foul in an attempt to regain possession of the ball. The Bulldogs took advantage of this failed strategy by knocking down 12-of-14 free-throws in the final minute of play en route to a 71-62 victory.
Bjekovic registered a team-high 19 points while going 5-for-6 from downtown. He also pulled in seven rebounds for the Bulldogs. O'Brien followed with an 18-point effort, while S. Milligan added 14 points off the bench with four assists.
Redlands shot an impressive 55% from the floor while going 22-for-34 from the charity stripe. The Sagehens only converted 33.9% of their field-goal attempts.
The Bulldogs (7-17, 4-11 SCIAC) wrap up their season by traveling to Whittier College (14-9, 8-6 SCIAC) on Monday, February 23, for a SCIAC doubleheader with the women. The men are slated to tip off at approximately 7:30 p.m.