Bulldog Men's Basketball Pushes past CMS in Quality Win, 68-61

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The University of Redlands men's basketball squad took to the road to face the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges Stags in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) showdown on Wednesday night. In a close-knit contest that featured dramatic lead-changes and potent offensive streaks, the Bulldogs converted 46.8% of their shots, including a 40% showing from beyond the arc, to secure the 68-61 victory.

Although the Bulldogs landed the first scoring blow with junior guard Sean Milligan's (Portland, OR) opening three-pointer, they were forced to overcome a six-point deficit less than five minutes into the action.

Nevertheless, the Bulldogs responded with a quick 7-0 run, starting at the 12-minute-mark when sophomore center Blake O'Brien (Sammamish, WA) knocked down a jumper. Senior center Shawn James (Plano, TX) contributed early off the bench by snapping the bottom of the net with a three-pointer, before Milligan hit another trey-ball for Redlands' 15-13 advantage at the midway point of the first frame.

Senior forward Al Bjekovic (Maribor, Slovenia) began to find his stroke through aggressive play, first making his way to the charity stripe and cashing in two points, and then hitting a jumper on the ensuing possession. Bjekovic did not stop there, as he put the Bulldogs up by six points when he swished a three-pointer to make it 22-16 with 4:46 remaining.

Milligan remained strong in the opening frame by contributing four points in the final two minutes, with one of his late buckets coming off of a quality pass from senior center Kyle Milligan (Portland, OR). The Bulldogs entered the locker room with a 28-22 lead at halftime.

Redlands got off to a lethargic start in the second half, leading to the Stags' 17-6 run that put them ahead by a score of 38-34 at the 15:05-mark.

Freshman guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) stepped back for a big three-pointer for the Maroon and Gray, but the Stags quickly responded with back-to-back long balls to extend their lead to seven points.

While remaining poised and determined, Redlands also stayed aggressive on the offensive end and earned multiple trips to the free-throw line, as S. Milligan and Bjekovic combined for a 7-for-9 mark over the next two minutes.

Following a Redlands timeout, Sponheim put the Bulldogs back on top at 46-44 by burying a jumper with 9:25 left to play.

After trading leads throughout a four-minute span, the Bulldogs strung together an 11-0 run that put them up by 10 points. Sophomore guard Kyle Husslein (Tamuning, Guam) served as the main offensive spark by kissing two points up and in off the glass, nailing a jumper, and knocking down a shot from beyond the arc. Bjekovic capped off the run with a jumper. The Bulldogs continued to remain strong and rode the run to a 68-61 victory.

Four of five Bulldogs starters finished in double-digit scoring, as highlighted by a 20-point effort from Bjekovic. He also pulled in a team-high seven rebounds, dished out two assists, and swiped a pair of steals.

S. Milligan, who provided the hot hand early in the contest, dropped 13 points. After his instrumental contributions in the latter part of the victory, Husslein tallied 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting. O'Brien kept the Bulldogs afloat all game with a 10-point, three-steal effort.

James and Sponheim helped out off the bench by combining for 10 points.

The Bulldogs capitalized off the Stags' sloppy play by dropping 29 points off turnovers.

Redlands (7-8, 3-3 SCIAC) heads to Whittier College to square off against the Poets (7-7, 3-3 SCIAC) on Saturday, January 23, at 2 p.m.