The University of Redlands men's basketball team took on the Kingsmen of Cal Lutheran University in Tuesday's Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown in Currier Gym. After celebrating the careers of seniors Sean Milligan (Portland, OR), Zack Whittet (Palm Desert, CA), and Erick Oscarson (Chelan, WA) in their final home game, the Bulldogs showed incredible heart and tenacity in a hard-fought 68-73 loss. Down by as many as 13 points, Redlands rallied back to close within two with 2:22 left in the game but the Bulldogs' late-game turnovers foiled the comeback effort.
Amidst the emotion and excitement of Senior Night, the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders, as Milligan bookended a run of three-consecutive trey-balls for an early 9-4 advantage. Freshman forward Jesse Wims (London, England) kept things rolling early with an and-one play to extend the home team's advantage to 12-6.
However, Cal Lutheran soon found its rhythm on offense to eventually tie it up at 17 apiece with 11:49 to play in the opening half.
After Milligan's third bucket from downtown put Redlands up by a score of 24-22, the Kingsmen orchestrated a 10-0 run to flip the momentum in their favor by the 6:28-mark.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, CLU closed out the half on a 9-2 run to secure a 43-30 halftime lead.
During the second half, Wims set the tone early with a three-pointer, while junior guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) sliced and diced his way through the lane for back-to-back buckets.
But the Kingsmen continued to out-score the home team to maintain their double-digit lead. Nonetheless, the Maroon and Gray did all it could to challenge CLU's offense, as highlighted by block after block from Milligan, Wims, and junior forward Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA).
The Bulldogs continued to turn up the intensity to the roar of the crowd in Currier Gym. After O'Brien pulled in a defensive board, Milligan hit a nothing-but-net three-pointer off of a dime of a pass from Wims, which kicked off an 11-3 run for the Maroon and Gray.
Another big-time block by O'Brien set up a three-pointer from sophomore guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) to make it a four-point game at 61-65. Two possessions later, Milligan cashed in on a second-chance opportunity by hitting the three-ball off of a Baker assist to keep Redlands within striking distance.
O'Brien capped off the lucrative run with a jumper to make it 66-68 with 2:22 remaining and force the Kingsmen to take a timeout.
But Redlands' rally ended there, as Cal Lu finished the game on a 5-2 run, while the Bulldogs struggled to maintain possession in the waning minutes.
Milligan ended his final night in Currier Gym with an impressive stat line that included 19 points, five assists, four blocks, four rebounds, and three steals. Wims added 13 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and two assists. O'Brien chipped in eight points, pulled in nine rebounds, and tallied two blocks. As a team, Redlands registered 11 blocks on the night.
Redlands (7-16, 3-11 SCIAC) heads to Whittier College on Saturday, February 18, for a 7 p.m. showdown against the Poets.