The University of Redlands men's basketball team continued its Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) journey on Thursday night by traveling to the University of La Verne to square off against the Leopards. Despite building a nine-point advantage early in the first half, the Bulldogs struggled to counter the home team's strong shooting night and faced a double-digit deficit with less than five minutes to go in the game. Nonetheless, the Maroon and Gray battled back to within three points before a final attempt to tie it up fell short, resulting in the difficult 84-87 loss.
Redlands came out firing on all cylinders by scoring the first seven points of the game. With sophomore guard Trevor Baker (Phoenix, AZ) serving as the play-maker on both buckets, freshman forward Jesse Wims (London, England) initiated the offensive outburst with a lay-up, before senior forward Sean Milligan (Portland, OR) bookended the run with his first three-pointer of the game.
After the Leopards stormed back to take a 9-7 lead at the 15:42-mark, the momentum shifted back in favor of the Maroon and Gray, as the squad answered with 9-0 run of its own. Junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) converted a nice and-one play by slicing and dicing his way to the basket, before sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) knocked down a three-pointer off of a dime of a pass from freshman forward David Menary (San Rafael, CA). Menary and Sponheim reversed roles on the ensuing offensive play to make it 18-9 for the Bulldogs.
Although the Leopards regained their offensive rhythm, Redlands remained in front through the end of the first half, thanks in part to key baskets by junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA), junior forward Nate Battisti (Seattle, WA), Husslein, and Wims. But Sponheim was also instrumental in the team's strong finish by scoring eight points in the final nine minutes of the stanza to send the Bulldogs into the locker room with a slight 43-40 advantage.
After the Leopards rallied to tie it up at 47 apiece, the teams traded buckets in a back-and-forth battle.
At the 11:55-mark, freshman guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) drained a huge three-pointer to put Redlands up by a 59-55 advantage.
However, La Verne quickly responded to create yet another shift in the momentum and eventually held an 81-69 lead with just over four minutes left on the clock.
But the Bulldogs refused to away and mustered an impressive rally of seven unanswered points, with Baker, Sponheim and Wims contributing to this scoring spurt to make it 76-81 with 2:49 to go.
Moments later, Baker knocked down back-to-back threes to make it a one-possession game at 82-85. Following the Leopards' subsequent jumper, Husslein snagged his own offensive board to eventually score a lay-up with nine ticks remaining.
On the Leopards' final possession, Baker came up with a huge steal to allow Head Coach Jim Ducey to call a timeout to set up the final play. Unfortunately, the last-second three-pointer missed the mark, resulting in a difficult 84-87 loss for Redlands.
Sponheim finished with a team-high 16 points, including three trey-balls, to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Baker added 15 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in a solid night, while Husslein and Wims chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Redlands (7-14, 3-9 SCIAC) returns home to the friendly confines of Currier Gym on Saturday, February 11, for "Family Fun Night", beginning at 5 p.m. with the women's game and followed by the men's game at approximately 7 p.m. Both squads take on Occidental College in a conference showdown.