The University of Redlands men's basketball team took to the court for its second game of the Scotts Valley Hilton Classic on Saturday by squaring off with host UC Santa Cruz in Kaiser Permanente Arena. Despite being down by 16 points early in the game, the Bulldogs showed great tenacity and perseverance to ultimately surpass the Banana Slugs for the hard-fought 77-72 win.
Redlands got off to a slow start and quickly faced an eight-point deficit. At the 16:50-mark of the opening frame, freshman forward Jesse Wims (London, England) drained a three-pointer for Redlands' first bucket of the game.
The Banana Slugs continued to roll by converting Bulldog mistakes into points. Nonetheless, Redlands slowly began its comeback, as sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) and freshman guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to eight with 7:49 remaining.
After exchanging a few more baskets, senior forward Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) hit a huge shot from beyond the arc to send the teams into halftime with UCSC leading by six at 41-35.
Redlands maintained its first-half surge early in the second stanza, beginning with Milligan's three on the Bulldogs' second possession. On the ensuing play, junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) snagged a steal and passed it to sophomore guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ), who was fouled on his way to the basket. He made his two free-throws to quickly put the Bulldogs within three.
At the 10:50-mark, Redlands' efforts finally came to fruition, as Sponheim arched a beautiful ball for three points to tie it up at 51-51.
After trading a few more buckets, junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) drained a long ball of his own to give Redlands its first lead of the night at 57-55 with 8:36 left on the second-half clock. After that it was all Baker and O'Brien, who cashed in for the next 14 of 15 points, with Milligan adding a free-throw as the game came to a close at 77-72.
Baker knocked down 16 points, with Milligan following close behind with 15 and Sponheim and O'Brien adding 11 and 10 points, respectively. Baker also hauled in seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs had an overall great shooting night, knocking down 49% of their field goals, 58.3% of their three-pointers, and 65% of their attempts from the charity stripe.
Redlands (1-1) heads home to host the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic on Friday, December 2, and Saturday, December 3. The Bulldogs welcome Trinity University (TX) to Currier Gym on Friday and University of Wisconsin at River Falls on Saturday. Both games are slated to start at 7 p.m. in Currier Gym.