The University of Redlands men's basketball team took on the Chapman University Panthers in Wednesday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown in Currier Gym. Amidst a game of streaks, the Bulldogs saw their hot start fade away but later rallied to nearly overcome a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes. Although the Maroon and Gray had the last possession, the final shots just missed, resulting in the heartbreaking 61-62 loss.
Redlands came out firing on all cylinders to take an early 10-2 lead less than five minutes into the game. After back-to-back free-throws by senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia), junior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) swished a bucket from beyond the arc for the 5-0 Bulldog advantage.
The Maroon and Gray defense forced Chapman into a pair of shot-clock violations within a two-minute span, feeding the home team's momentum. Sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) hit a jumper on the ensuing possession, before senior center Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) swiped the ball for the Panthers' third turnover of the game.
Bjekovic capped off the early run with a three-pointer to make it 10-2 with 15:58 left on the first-half clock.
Redlands continued to pour on the offense over the next few minutes, extending its lead to 18-7 after three-pointers from senior center Shawn James (Plano, TX) and freshman guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA).
However, the Panthers answered with a few three-pointers of their own, while the Maroon and Gray struggled to maintain its early offensive rhythm. By the end of the first half, Chapman held a slight 28-26 advantage.
The teams traded scores throughout the first 12 minutes of the second stanza, resulting in a knotted score at 45.
A Bulldog cold spurt allowed Chapman to build a 56-47 lead with 2:58 remaining in the game.
However, Redlands refused to back down, as S. Milligan chucked up a three-pointer that resulted in a Panther foul and three successful free-throws.
But the Panthers answered right back with another well-timed three-pointer, keeping the lead at nine.
After a pair of Bjekovic free-throws, Chapman also headed to the line but the chanting crowd affected the outcome in Redlands' favor, with sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) hauling in a huge defensive rebound. Sponheim capitalized for the Maroon and Gray by cutting the deficit to four with a short-range jumper.
The teams traded buckets before Redlands was forced to foul. But Chapman could not make the most of opportunity, as the crowd successfully distracted the free-throw shooter once again. O'Brien's defensive board led to sophomore forward Reed Hopkins' (Spokane, WA) long jumper to make it a three-point game.
Following one successful free-throw by the same Panther shooter, S. Milligan found O'Brien at the top of the arc for a huge trey-ball to cut the deficit to one with 31 seconds on the clock.
Two more missed Chapman free-throws gave Redlands the chance to win it, but both Bulldog shots fell short as time expired, resulting in the disappointing 61-62 loss.
Overall, both teams shot around 40% on the night, with Chapman sinking two more three-pointers than Redlands.
Bjekovic led all players with a 19-point showing. He also pulled in five rebounds, dished out three assists, and nabbed two steals. S. Milligan provided eight points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
James led the bench brigade with nine points, to go along with four assists and three boards. Sponheim chipped in eight points.
Redlands (7-10, 3-5 SCIAC) heads to Cal Lutheran University on Saturday, January 30, for a 2 p.m. contest against the Kingsmen.