2011-12 Summary: Redlands Men's Basketball Achieves Milestones with Exciting Season
After last season's memorable Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championship run, the University of Redlands men's basketball team boasted high expectations for the 2011-12 campaign. Head Coach Jim Ducey guided the Bulldogs to a solid season complete with individual and program milestones as well as competitive wins en route to a spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
Redlands recovered from an early three-game skid by rattling off three straight wins to take the 64th Annual Lee Fulmer Memorial Tournament Championship in early December. Senior center Jack Colston (Dana Point, CA) was firing on all cylinders on the opening night of the tournament, scoring 22 points while grabbing 14 boards and blocking two shots en route to the Bulldogs' 84-70 victory over Pacifica College. Junior forward Josiah Brensdal (Kent, WA) also chipped in 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting on a night that saw the program earn its 1000th overall victory in its 95-year history.
During the nightcap of the second day of the tournament, Redlands faced off against regional rival UC Santa Cruz in a game that saw the Banana Slugs take a one-point lead into halftime. Not fazed by the deficit, the Bulldogs put together an impressive second-half display while outscoring Santa Cruz by 17 on the way to a comfortable 92-76 triumph. Junior guard Brian Kuklok (Poway, CA) enjoyed one of the best shooting nights of the season for the Bulldogs, going 9-for-10 from the field, including a 3-for-4 performance from downtown. His 23 points tied for best on the night for the Maroon and Gray, as senior guard Stephen Call (Portola Valley, CA) matched Kuklok's output by knocking down two from three-point land en route to his offensive outburst off the bench.
Following the crucial tournament semifinal win over UCSC, Redlands battled it out against SCIAC rival Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in the championship game. Junior guard Tristan Kirk (Redlands, CA) scored 16 points while hauling in eight rebounds and dishing out two assists in a game that included a 12-point halftime advantage for the Maroon and Gray. Unwilling to relinquish their lead, the Bulldogs played a smart second stanza and won the game, 67-54, to bring the tournament title back to Redlands after a five-year hiatus. Colston, Kuklok and Kirk each collected All-Tournament honors, with Kirk earning the Tournament MVP Award.
After difficult regional losses to Chapman University and Pacific Lutheran University (WA), Redlands bounced back against then- undefeated and 15th-ranked University of Puget Sound (WA), shocking the Northwest Conference team by a score of 90-72. Once again for the Bulldogs, it was hot shooting from the outside via Kuklok, Call, and senior guard Mychal Estrada (Redlands, CA), as they each drained a trio of three-pointers in the upset victory.
Back in Southern California in late December, the Maroon and Gray traveled to take on NCAA Division I competitor, San Diego State University. The Aztecs came into the game leading the all-time series between the two teams, 24-13, so the Bulldogs knew it would be a difficult task in hostile territory. Kuklok scored a team-high 11 points, but it wasn't enough. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs gained valuable experience against a high-profile team that was on its way to the NCAA tournament.
Redlands competed in one final tune-up before kicking off SCIAC competition and cruised to a comfortable 97-69 win over American Sports University. After a tight battle in the opening half, the Bulldogs benefitted from their depth on the bench when freshman guard Connor Griffin (San Ramon, CA) drained a three-point basket with only six ticks left on the first-half clock to give the Bulldogs a seven-point lead at the break. Sophomore guard Matt Calhoun (Clackamas, OR) also provided energy off the bench, throwing down two dunks as a part of his 14-point effort.
The Maroon and Gray eclipsed the 100-point mark for the first time during the season on the opening night of SCIAC competition, taking down the Poets of Whittier College, 103-91. The high-scoring affair saw five Bulldogs in double figures, including Colston with 21 points and 12 boards in addition to six assists. Redlands shot a solid 47% from the field and capitalized on 20 Poet turnovers by converting those into 29 easy points.
After suffering a couple of tough losses to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, Ducey's squad showed resilience with five straight SCIAC victories by an average of 18.8 points per contest. The largest margin of victory came against Caltech on January 21 when the bench played a major role in the outcome once again. All 16 players on the Bulldog roster saw time in the contest with 13 of them scoring at least one point. Sophomore forward Alex Rudd (St. Louis, MO) chipped in five points to go along with three rebounds, while fellow sophomore forward Ian Gordon (Bellevue, WA) added a couple of offensive rebounds, an assist, and two points in the win.
In the fifth game of the impressive winning streak, the Bulldogs took down the Tigers of Occidental College by a score of 77-55 behind some excellent shooting from beyond the arc. Redlands' sharpshooters converted an astounding 54.2% from downtown with the Bulldog starters combining for eleven buckets from long range. Kuklok went 4-for-4 on three-pointers and 8-for-12 overall, scoring 20 points in the victory that placed Redlands in a three-way tie for second place in the conference.
However, three straight losses put the Bulldogs into a battle for the fourth and final SCIAC Postseason Tournament spot. The Maroon and Gray stepped up for a crucial victory in overtime at La Verne, outscoring the Leopards in the extra session by five to win, 91-86. Colston led the way for Redlands as he recorded a career-high 27 points in addition to pulling down nine rebounds. With two SCIAC games remaining, the triumph put the Bulldogs in prime position to secure that final spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
Following a tough road loss to Cal Lutheran University, the final regular-season game became a must-win situation for Redlands. On Senior Night, the squad left no doubt as it trounced the Beavers of Caltech once again, prevailing by a score of 91-65. Colston, Call, Estrada and senior center Ronnie Williams (Ventura, CA) went out in style in their final game in Currier Gymnasium, as each player scored in double figures. Williams recorded a career-best performance with 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Estrada was red-hot from downtown, nailing seven from beyond the arc for 21 points. Sophomore guard Eric Radford (Federal Way, WA) came off the bench to provide a lift by notching five total points and dishing out five assists.
Finishing the SCIAC regular season with an 8-6 record, the No. 4 seeded Bulldogs faced off against top-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament semifinal. Despite a valiant comeback effort in the second half, the Bulldogs struggled to make up the five-point halftime deficit and lost to the Stags by a score of 65-67. Kirk and Estrada both recorded 13 points on the night, while Kuklok also reached double digits with 10 during this defensive battle of foes.
With his sensational shooting from the outside throughout the course of the 2011-12 season, Estrada set the school record for three-point field-goal percentage in a single season at 47.1%, which came off of 49 made baskets from long range.
Colston was Redlands' sole representative on the All-SCIAC First Team. It was his inaugural selection after a stellar senior campaign that saw him lead the team and rank sixth overall in the conference in scoring at 14.3 points per game. In SCIAC play, he recorded a shooting percentage of 42.5% in addition to a solid 76.6% performance at the charity stripe. He also ranked in the top eight in the conference in numerous categories, highlighted by placing second in defensive rebounds (92) and third in total rebounds (119).
Kirk garnered his second All-SCIAC honor by landing on the Second Team in 2011-12. Scoring at a rate of 11.4 points per contest, Kirk also pulled in 5.6 rebounds per game, including 27 offensive boards to rank sixth among the SCIAC. Despite missing two games due to injury, he still managed to tally the second-most assists in the conference with 36.
Despite the graduation of four important contributors, the Bulldog men's basketball team looks forward to the return of a strong core of upperclassmen, including Kirk, Kuklok and Brensdal who all bring experience and leadership. This group complements the abilities of multiple bright young players who showed bounds of promise and potential throughout the course of this season. The program's history of success will surely provide motivation for the team to return to the top of the conference and carry on the tradition of Bulldog men's basketball.