The University of Redlands men's basketball team opened Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) competition on Tuesday night in Currier Gym against an energetic University of La Verne squad. After trailing early, the Bulldogs fought to stymie the hot shooting presence of the Leopards but never completed the comeback en route to a 73-99 loss.
Sophomore guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ) continued his recent offensive success by knocking down the Bulldogs' first basket with a trey-ball less than 30 seconds into the game.
The Leopards came ready to play and quickly answered with a three-pointer of their own to tie it up with 19:08 left in the first half.
After the teams traded baskets on the ensuing possessions, La Verne fired off an 8-0 run to secure a lead that it never relinquished for the remainder of the game.
Sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) ended the Bulldogs' scoring drought by driving the lane for a lay-up, before freshman forward Jesse Wims (London, England) knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to cut the deficit to five.
Redlands stayed within striking distance over the next few minutes, thanks in part to key buckets by junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) and junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam). Sponheim hit nothing-but-net from downtown to make it 23-28 with 8:46 left on the first-half clock.
Unfortunately, a cold streak took over the Bulldogs' offense, as the Leopards continued to heat up from all areas of the court. Redlands retreated to the locker room needing to address a 33-47 deficit.
The Bulldogs battled back to close within eight points during a two-minute spurt in the second frame. While trailing by 17 points, Redlands fired off a 9-0 run, beginning with an O'Brien jump shot. Sponheim pulled in a huge rebound on the Leopards' subsequent miss and then went coast-to-coast for the lay-up. Baker took advantage of a second-chance opportunity by sinking a three-pointer, before Sponheim's next defensive board led to another Baker bucket to move Redlands within eight at 51-59 with 11:25 remaining.
However, La Verne responded with an emotionally-driven, offensive surge to create a double-digit lead and went on to hand Redlands a difficult defeat.
Baker led the Maroon and Gray with 16 points, while O'Brien and Sponheim each scored 12. Wims chipped in 11 points, while Husslein came off the bench to supply eight.
Redlands out-rebounded the Leopards, 49-45, with Wims pacing the team with eight boards. Junior forward Will Tender (Spokane, WA) provided quality minutes off the bench by pulling in six rebounds, including three on the offensive end.
The Bulldogs (4-6, 0-1 SCIAC) strive to immediately bounce back when they host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges on Thursday, January 5, at 7 p.m. in Currier Gym.