The University of Redlands men's basketball team hosted the Cal Lutheran University Kingsmen in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action on Wednesday night in a packed house at Currier Gym. The Bulldogs lit up the hardwood by shooting 51 percent from the floor to hold off the Kingsmen in a 75-68 decision for the Bulldogs' first conference win of the year.
The Bulldogs got off to a solid start by converting four of their first shots. Junior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) took a lay-up strong to the hoop for the opening score of the game, before senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) converted two-consecutive buckets. Sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) nailed his first shot of the game from behind the arc on the next possession, resulting in an early 9-5 lead.
The Bulldogs maintained the early cushion, as sophomore guard Wyatt Pannabecker (Choteau, MT) cashed in two points at the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) and senior center Shawn James (Plano, TX) combined for five points for an 18-11 advantage at the midway point of the first half.
With Bjekovic hitting a triple that grazed nothing but net after a Bulldog timeout, O'Brien fueled the offensive momentum by scoring four points on back-to-back possessions for a 10-point lead. Husslein and Bjekovic continued to remain effective in the final minutes of the first half by burying a three-pointer each to take a 41-30 advantage into the locker room.
The Maroon and Gray stayed hot in the early stages of the second half by continuing to nail clutch shots. Husslein kicked off the scoring by flushing a trey-ball, which was assisted by senior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR). K. Milligan followed a possession later by driving to the hoop with a left-handed hook shot off the glass and converting the three-point play to keep the Bulldogs ahead at 46-34.
After a Bjekovic free-throw that put the Bulldogs up by 14 points with 9:40 remaining, Cal Lutheran strung together a 9-0 run that stretched for approximately four minutes during the latter portion of the second half to put them back into the game.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs kept their composure and picked up the rhythm with another three-point play by K. Milligan. From then on, the Bulldogs began to get the job done at the charity stripe, as highlighted by a 5-for-6 mark from S. Milligan in the final minutes, en route to the 75-68 victory.
With the hard-fought triumph, the Bulldogs snap a seven-game skid and record their first win in January.
Bjekovic topped the Bulldog performers by hauling in a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. O'Brien dropped 14 points on the night to go along with two assists and two blocks.
Husslein was solid from beyond the arc, boasting a 2-for-3 mark, which led to 10 points. James led the bench in scoring with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting.
The Bulldogs owned the boards tonight by out-rebounding the Kingsmen, 40-29. In addition, Redlands' ball movement was pristine while topping the Kingsmen in assists by a 14-7 ratio.
The Bulldogs (5-8, 1-3 SCIAC) face off against the University of La Verne Leopards (5-7, 3-1 SCIAC) on Saturday, January 16, at 5 p.m. in Currier Gym.