Although the University of Redlands men's basketball team darted out to a first-half lead, the Bulldogs eventually lost steam in a 64-71 loss to Occidental College in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs tipped off with defense in mind, as a steal by sophomore forward Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA) on Oxy's first possession led to a three-pointer from sophomore guard Michael Hanna (Murrieta, CA). On the ensuing play, senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) picked the pocket of another Tiger guard, but to no avail, with a missed three-pointer in transition. Nonetheless, Redlands remained locked in on the defensive end when Hanna became the third Bulldog to register a steal in the game, with this one leading to his fast-break bucket on the other end for a 5-2 Redlands lead at the 16:31-mark.
The Tigers connected on a layup to come to within one point, but the Maroon and Gray scored on a pair of back-to-back, second-chance layups to make it 9-4 after five minutes of action. The Bulldogs continued to crash the offensive glass, which created an opportunity for sophomore forward Spencer Bandow (Covina, CA) to drain a jumper for Redlands' five-point lead.
As action progressed, Occidental moved in front for the first time just past the midway point of the half. However, the lead was short-lived, as junior guard Hass Berry(Riverside, CA) knocked down a trey to put Redlands back up on the subsequent possession.
Later in the half, first-year wing Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA) nabbed another Bulldog steal that led to points, as he pushed the ball up to junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) for a lay-in. With the nice play, the Maroon and Gray owned a 20-15 advantage at the 8:11-mark.
After Sponheim hit a bucket from downtown, G. Menary blocked the conference's leading scorer to put a stamp on a 10-0 Redlands run for a 23-17 advantage with seven minutes remaining in the half.
The Maroon and Gray's lead continued to grow due to its stingy defense and fluent offense. The Bulldogs eventually gained a double-digit lead off of a Berry triple in the final minute, as the teams headed into the break with Redlands up by a score of 33-22.
It became a tale of two halves when Occidental came out of the intermission on an 8-0 run. Sponheim broke the scoring spree with a layup, but a pair of three-pointers from Occidental put the Bulldogs in a 35-38 hole with 15:29 left to play.
The second-half shooting woes continued for the Maroon and Gray, which allowed the Tigers to gain control of a 47-37 lead by the 12:25-mark. The Bulldogs worked to cut the deficit with a nice hustle play from D. Menary, who corralled an offensive rebound and put it back up for the score. Two possession later, he flew down the court for a coast-to-coast and-one layup, which he converted, to make it 42-47.
Occidental attempted to distance themselves, but Redlands continued to respond with timely buckets. With 8:39 to go, Sponheim answered Oxy's three-pointer with a deep ball of his own to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.
Now trailing by six, D. Menary checked back into the game and provided a much-needed spark of seven consecutive points in just over a minute to cut the deficit to just 52-54 with 6:50 to go. Occidental stopped the Bulldog run with a jumper, but Sponheim connected from downtown once again to close the gap to one point.
Despite Redlands' heart and effort, the Tigers pulled away in the final minutes to secure a 71-64 win.
For the Maroon and Gray, D. Menary notched a near double-double with 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting and nine rebounds. Sponheim was efficient in his 22 minutes of action, dropping in 14 points and dishing out four assists. That marks his seventh game this season with four or more three-pointers. G. Menary supplied five points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Berry chipped in eight points and two boards off the bench.
Redlands (11-10, 6-6 SCIAC) sits in fourth place in the SCIAC standings and looks forward to returning home on Saturday, February 9, for an important conference matchup against Chapman University at 7 p.m.