The University of Redlands men's basketball team continued Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) on the road against the Occidental College Tigers on Wednesday night. Thorough a solid offensive effort that topped the Tigers in each half, the Bulldogs worked as a highly-effective cohesive unit with multiple contributors on both ends of the hardwood en route to the 55-50 victory.
Despite suffering a 3-11 Tiger run to start the game, the Bulldogs worked to trim the deficit to four points leading up to the midway mark of the first half. Sophomore forward Will Tender (Spokane, WA) began the mini-run with a jumper, which was assisted by freshman guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA). Senior forward Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR) pocketed a steal to set up a lay-up by freshman forward Trevor Brown (San Mateo, CA) shortly after. Junior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) capped off the run by banking in a lay-up to push the score to 9-13 with 10:53 remaining in the first frame.
Redlands continued its fight to gain the lead, as senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) worked his way to the charity stripe for two points after hauling in an offensive board. Sophomore Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) and S. Milligan combined for four points on consecutive possessions, which set up a game-tying lay-up from sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA). Bjekovic backed the O'Brien score by splashing a triple, while Brown knocked in a lay-up en route to the Maroon and Gray's 22-20 advantage entering halftime.
Bjekovic came out hot in the second frame by notching the first six points for the U of R, which included a 4-for-4 mark from the line. O'Brien remained aggressive by converting an and-one play to create some brief momentum for the Bulldogs.
After forfeiting the lead just before the 10-minute mark of the second half, Sponheim rose to the occasion and chucked up a trio of three-pointers to put the Maroon and Gray back on top. S. Milligan caught on to the downtown trend by drilling a trey-ball for the Bulldogs' 43-37 advantage with 7:33 remaining in the contest.
After suffering another lead-change that favored the Tigers in the latter portion of the second half, Bjekovic took over offensively by drilling five points on a three-pointer and lay-up. From then on, a pair of free-throws from Husslein and Sponheim, along with a jumper from K. Milligan, sealed the deal for the Bulldogs' 55-50 win.
Bjekovic led Redlands in scoring with his 11th-consecutive, double-digit scoring game with 16 points, to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals. S. Milligan backed Bjekovic on the scoring from with 10 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals.
Sponheim led the bench with 11 points, which included a 3-for-6 mark from downtown.
With the win, Redlands (11-10, 7-5 SCIAC) moves into a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings. Next up, the Bulldogs travel to Chapman University on Saturday, February 13, to face the first-place Panthers at 2 p.m.