The University of Redlands men's basketball team tipped off at home for the first time this season with an exciting 63-60 victory over the visiting Trinity University (TX) Tigers in Friday's action of the 2016 Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic in Currier Gym. Despite trailing by as many as 12 point early on, the Bulldogs clawed their way back with big buckets from downtown while utilizing a relentless defensive effort for the win.
Trinity came out firing and quickly forced Head Coach Jim Ducey to call a timeout less than two minutes into the contest.
With a nine-point deficit staring them in the face, the Bulldogs struggled to establish their offensive rhythm, as the Tigers continued to click and established a 20-8 advantage with 13:03 left on the first-half clock.
Following another chance for Ducey to talk it over, freshman forward Jesse Wims (London England) initiated the Maroon and Gray's comeback by knocking down back-to-back threes to make it 14-20. This inspired multiple Bulldogs to step up with quality looks, as senior guard Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) hit nothing but net on a jumper, before Wims found an open junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) for a three-pointer. In addition, sophomore guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ) connected with freshman forward Brittain Foster (Long Beach, CA) on a nice inside pass, before making his own jumper. Finally, sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) helped keep Redlands in the hunt with a big-time three off of Milligan's pass. A late Baker lay-up allowed the team to retreat to the locker room with only a five-point deficit at 28-33.
Wims continued his hot streak from long range by sinking consecutive three-balls for Redlands' first lead of the night at 34-33 early in the second half. His second shot from downtown was the result of a big-time offensive board by Milligan.
From here, it was a back-and-forth battle, with the Bulldogs mustering a 44-38 advantage on big three-pointers from Baker and Sponheim.
But the Tigers refused to go away and eventually regained the lead two minutes later.
Jump ahead to the 6:28-mark, Redlands faced another comeback scenario but kept up the necessary intensity and focus to be successful. A huge fade-away jumper by Sponheim and a key defensive rebound by Husslein led to his own three-pointer to make it a one-point game at 57-58. Husslein went on to make the Bulldogs' next two jumpers to surge ahead at 61-58, while Milligan's two free-throws iced the win.
Although Trinity had one final look, the tying shot just missed, resulting in the Bulldogs' hard-fought victory.
Wims fired off a game-high 20 points, with a 5-for-10 showing from beyond the arc. Husslein added 10 points, while Sponheim finished with eight. Junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) and Baker each pulled down eight rebounds for the Bulldogs. Baker also provided four assists and seven points.
Redlands (2-1) looks forward to facing the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in Saturday's 7 p.m. of the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic.
UW-River Falls vs. La Verne:
Today the Falcons held off the University of La Verne in an impressive battle during the opening game of the Lee Fulmer Classic. Both teams arrived ready to play, resulting in an intense second-half battle. The Falcons held off a late surge by the Leopards to secure a 71-69 victory.
The Leopards used speed and agility to go on an 11-6 run to start the first half. But UW-River Falls quickly made the necessary adjustments and flipped the switch to go on a 6-2 run with two jumpers and a lay-up. The score stayed relatively even until the 8:30-mark, when Falcon senior forward Garrett Pearson drained a three-pointer to give UW-River Falls a 26-18 advantage. That was only the start for Pearson, as he ended the night with a team-high 25 points.
Just a minute into the first half, the Falcons held their biggest lead of the night at 15 points with the score at 44-29.
However, the Leopards dug deep and clawed their way back into the game. Over the next 12 minutes, the Leopards went on a 12-6 run to put them within nine, led by junior guard Connor Heard who hit five points.
Fast forward to the 5:38-mark, as La Verne senior guard Cruz Mertens hit a huge bucket from beyond the arc to tie it at 60-all. Mertens came up big for the Leopards as he led the team with 15 points.
The game then became very physical, with UW-River Falls junior guard Alex Herink hitting a jumper to tie it back up at 69-69. With six seconds left on the clock, Falcon junior guard Devin Buckley was fouled under the basket and nailed his subsequent free-throws for the 71-69 lead.
La Verne had one last chance to either force overtime or steal the win, but the Leopards' final three-pointer was off the mark.
The Leopards return to Currier Gym to face the Tigers of Trinity University in tomorrow's 5 p.m. game.