The University of Redlands men's basketball team took on in-region foe UC Santa Cruz in Saturday's season opener on the road. The Bulldogs used a strong start to the second half to push past the Banana Slugs in a 58-47 non-conference victory.
The first half was tightly contested with neither team building more than a five-point lead. The Banana Slugs regained their largest lead of the game after connecting on a pair of free throws to make it 16-11, but the Maroon and Gray sank five consecutive free throws to tie the game at 16-all with 7:10 to go in the half.
In the midst of a 12-4 run from the Bulldogs, junior forward David Menary (Grass Valley, CA) drove for a layup to put Redlands up, 23-18. Santa Cruz cut the deficit to three, but a jumper from junior guard Hass Berry (Riverside, CA) gave the Bulldogs a 27-22 advantage heading into halftime.
Head Coach Jim Ducey fired up his team at the break, which sparked a 12-4 start the half. The run began with Menary hustling to tip in his own miss on a jumper. After the Bulldogs gave up a bucket, sophomore Parker Landolf (Alamo, CA) came down on the subsequent possession to hit a jumper, which was followed by a steal and a breakaway layup by Menary for the 34-26 lead. First-year forward Kameron Wright (Fontana, CA) checked into the game and made an immediate impact with a successful jumper. Redlands capped off the fast-paced run when senior guard Joey Sponheim (Redlands, CA) knocked down a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game at 39-26 with 14:18 to go.
After Santa Cruz scored six consecutive points, Parker hit Sponheim for a layup to stop the Banana Slugs' momentum and push the lead back to double-figures at 43-34. The teams traded buckets, but the Maroon and Gray kept a healthy lead down the stretch.
The defense stepped up and held the Banana Slugs scoreless for the final 2:09 of the game to seal the 58-47 victory.
Sponheim led the game with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He was also a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe and added a pair of rebounds. Menary impacted every area of the game with 14 points, four assists, and two steals. Sophomore guard Michael Hanna (Murrieta, CA) was active on the boards with a team-high eight rebounds, in addition to scoring eight points. Both junior wing Gary Menary (Grass Valley, CA) and Wright provided a spark off the bench. G. Menary registered eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals, while Wright added four points, four boards, and two assists.
As a team, the Bulldogs shot 44.9% from the field. They successfully punished the Banana Slugs for their mistakes with 19 points off of Santa Cruz's 21 turnovers and nine second-chance buckets.
Redlands returns to Currier Gym for its home opener on Friday, November 16, against California Miramar University at 8 p.m. at the Bulldog Tip-Off Classic.