U of R Men's Basketball Rallies Back for Exciting 77-74 Win over Occidental

Photo credit: Halie West
Photo credit: Halie West

The University of Redlands men's basketball team jumped back into the win column on Thursday night with an exciting Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) victory against the Occidental College Tigers in Eagle Rock.  After trailing by 10 points with seven minutes to go, the Bulldogs fired off a 17-2 run to take the lead and hang on for the hard-fought 77-74 win.

Early in the game, the teams traded buckets en route to multiple tie scores.  Junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) evened the count at eight off of a sweet lay-up, before back-to-back three-pointers by sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) and freshman forward Jesse Wims (London, England) knotted up the score at 16. Freshman forward David Menary (San Rafael, CA) provided a key basket with 10:41 remaining in the first half to make it 18-all.

After Redlands took the lead at 20-18 off of a Sponheim lay-up, the Tigers strung together a nice 16-4 run to build a double-digit lead at 34-24 with 3:58 to go.

Despite key three-pointers by sophomore guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ) and freshman guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA), the Bulldogs trailed by a score of 37-45 at the halftime intermission.

The momentum appeared to stay with Occidental during the first few minutes of the second stanza.  While faced with an 11-point deficit, the Bulldogs rallied to pull within three at 55-58 due to quality looks by junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam), Berry, and Menary. 

But the Tigers responded with another mini-run to put Redlands back in a double-digit hole with 7:38 left in the game.

Nonetheless, the Maroon and Gray refused to go away.  Following a productive timeout with Head Coach Jim Ducey, the Bulldogs simply impressed with huge defensive stops and successful scoring drives that culminated in a 17-2 run.  Senior forward Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) got things started with a crafty lay-up, before Sponheim pulled in a defensive board and then dished out the assist to Wims, who knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to make it a five-point game with 5:17 to play.

Less than 90 seconds later, it was déjà vu for the Bulldogs, as Wims hauled in a big board to set up another Sponheim assist on Wims' own three-pointer.

Sponheim and Baker added to the Bulldogs' scoring prowess, before Occidental ended its offensive drought on a pair of free-throws to tie it up at 67.

But Sponheim came up with another big play when he hit a three-pointer with 1:33 on the clock for the Bulldogs' 70-67 advantage.  The teams traded buckets and free-throws but Redlands remained in front through the final whistle, with Wims, Baker, and Sponheim hitting important shots from the charity stripe in the waning seconds.

As a team, Redlands shot 47.6% overall, as highlighted by a 42.1% performance from long range, en route to five players finishing in double-digit scoring.  Wims paced the Bulldogs with 15 points, including a 3-for-4 showing from downtown.  Sponheim added 14 points with a pair of threes, to go along with six assists. Baker added 12 points, while O'Brien chipped in 10.  In addition, Berry impressed off the bench with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

After this week's two road games, Redlands (6-11, 2-6 SCIAC) returns home to the familiar surroundings of Currier Gym for a conference tilt against the Caltech Beavers on Saturday, January 28, at 7 p.m.