Bulldog Men's Basketball Outlasts Occidental College in High-Scoring SCIAC Affair

Photo credit: Maya Brito
Photo credit: Maya Brito

In a game that came down to the wire, the University of Redlands men's basketball team picked up an exciting 101-97 victory over Occidental College in Currier Gym on Wednesday night.  Just two days after recording his 1000th point, senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) impressed with a career-high, 40-point effort to aid the Bulldogs in a critical Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) contest against the Tigers.  The result moves Redlands out of a tie and into fourth place alone while handing Oxy its third conference loss.

Both teams came out firing in a fast-paced, offensive-minded battle. After Occidental opened the game with a score on the first possession, sophomore forward Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA) answered for the Bulldogs by knocking down his first three-pointer of the night. A little more than a minute later, Sponheim stepped behind the line for a trey to give Redlands an early 6-2 lead.

Although the Tigers went on a quick 7-0 run, the Bulldogs quickly recaptured the lead at 10-9 with a pair of free throws from junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA). After scoring on a layup moments later, D. Menary delivered a dime of a pass to his brother, first-year guard Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA), for a triple that gave the Bulldogs a 15-9 edge over the Tigers with 15:27 on the clock.

On two separate occasions, Sponheim connected on a deep ball, both of which put the home team up by seven points. Despite the Tigers scoring on the next possession, Sponheim responded with another bucket for the Bulldogs' 23-16 lead at the 13:09-mark of the half.

Over the next few minutes, the scoring slowed for both teams, until a corner three from Landolf sparked a 7-0 run for the Bulldogs to go up 33-20.  With 7:06 still left to go in the half, the Maroon and Gray took its largest lead of the game at 14 to create a solid cushion heading down the stretch of the stanza. 

The Tigers attempted to inch closer, but timely baskets from the Bulldogs, including a layup from D. Menary at the 4:59-mark, allowed Redlands to enjoy a brief double-digit lead at 39-28. Although the Bulldogs scored only one more field goal in the half, they remained aggressive and created free-throw opportunities for six points from the line in the final four minutes.

Meanwhile, the Tigers picked up their tempo and closed the gap all the way back down to one point with 26 seconds to go. With poise and skill, Sponheim delivered a tough, step-back three-pointer with time winding down to send his team into the locker room with a 50-46 lead at the halftime break.

The second half was tightly contested through its entirety, beginning with a quick 7-4 run from Redlands in the first couple of minutes to make it a 57-50 game.

However, the Tigers once again dwindled the lead down to one point with a solid run.  

But D. Menary knocked down a jumper in the paint before sophomore forward Spencer Bandow (Covina, CA) drained a three-pointer to lift the Maroon and Gray to a 64-61 advantage with 14:13 left in the contest.

Two minutes later Bandow connected on another bucket from deep, but the Tigers answered with a scoring surge to swing the score in their favor at 79-70 by the 9:08-mark. Despite the sudden switch in momentum, Redlands weathered the storm, as Sponheim and D. Menary combined for nine points to knot the game at 79-all with just under seven minutes remaining.

The teams traded leads over the next few possessions until another trey from Sponheim put the Bulldogs up by a score of 84-83.  As the energy began to grow inside of Currier Gym, D. Menary corralled an offensive rebound and put it right back up for an enthusiastic and-one bucket for the 87-83 advantage. He converted two more free throws before Parker hit his fourth three-pointer of the game, with this one coming off of a sweet baseline feed from sophomore guard Michael Hanna (Murrieta, CA).  With 4:03 left on the clock, Redlands owned a 92-87 lead. The deep-ball attack continued, as D. Menary stole the ball and pushed it forward to Sponheim, who put the nail in the coffin with yet another three-pointer.

The Tigers were forced to play the foul game and managed to cut it to two points with 35 seconds left in regulation, but strong shooting from the free-throw line down the stretch elevated the Maroon and Gray to a gritty 101-97 SCIAC victory.

Sponheim's career-high 40 points came off of 8-for-11 shooting from the field, including seven from behind the arc, and a 90% showing from the free-throw line. He also grabbed five rebounds to go along with five assists and two steals. Menary posted a career-high of his own with 33 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 17-of-19 from the charity stripe. He pulled in seven rebounds and dished out five assists as well. For the second time this season, Landolf connected on four three-pointers, which netted him 12 points in tonight's victory. 

Redlands (9-7, 4-3 SCIAC) takes to the road to face the University of La Verne on Saturday, January 19, at 4 p.m.