The University of Redlands men's basketball team celebrated Senior Night in Currier Gym by facing off against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges Stags on Saturday night in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) action. The Bulldogs used a stout defense and a high-flying offense to take down the Stags en route to a commanding 67-43 victory.
Prior to the game action, seniors Jake Olsen (Portland, OR), Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia), Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR), and Shawn James (Plano, TX) were recognized for their contributions to the program throughout their respective careers.
Sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) kicked off the scoring for the Bulldogs in the first half by laying two points up and in off the glass. Sophomore guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) and James followed by combining for consecutive trey-balls, followed by James taking the ball to the rack and finishing with authority two possessions later. Bjekovic assisted on two of the three shots to aid Redlands' 10-3 advantage early on.
O'Brien continued to make solid contributions on the offensive end by drilling two shots from the charity stripe after drawing a hard foul. Bjekovic got more involved when he hit a jumper after James found him for the bucket to maintain the Bulldogs' 10-point lead. Sophomore forward Nate Battisti (Seattle, WA) chipped in on the scoring by converting a nice fade-away 12-footer, before freshman guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) sank a long three-pointer to further distance the Bulldogs from the Stags. Redlands entered the locker room at halftime with a sizeable 29-16 lead.
The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off in the early stages of the second frame, as S. Milligan and Bjekovic combined for two-consecutive buckets to open the frame. The duo continued to roll with a little help from K. Milligan, as he assisted on a Bjekovic bucket that was backed by another S. Milligan lay-up for Redlands' 39-24 advantage with 13:26 remaining.
The Bulldogs continued to fire on all cylinders, as James and O'Brien notched back-to-back buckets, with Bjekovic and S. Milligan acting as the facilitators. Sponheim added another bucket a couple possessions later on a nice drive through the lane, while Bjekovic followed suit by drawing a foul and cashing in two points from the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) fed off a swatted shot from K. Milligan a couple possessions later and drained a jumper on the ensuing possession to give the Bulldogs a comfortable lead at 55-34 with 5:13 remaining.
Olsen entered into the contest in the latter portion of the second half and made the most of his opportunity by knocking down a three-pointer and a pair of free-throws. Junior forward Thunder Wellhausen (Almira, WA) made his season debut and buried two free-throws en route to a 67-43 victory.
Overall, Bjekovic recorded a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. In addition, he dished out five assists and pocketed two steals. S. Milligan had a quality game by draining 14 points, while O'Brien flushed 10 points.
James led the bench in scoring with seven points, to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Sponheim contributed six points as well.
The Bulldogs (12-12, 8-7 SCIAC) now sit alone in third place, with a one-game lead over a bottleneck of a tie between CMS, Caltech, and the University of La Verne. Redlands finishes up conference play on the road against the La Verne Leopards on Tuesday, February 23, at 5:30 p.m.