PASADENA — The Occidental College men's basketball team dominated the glass and rode a big first-half lead to beat Caltech, 80-74 for its first SCIAC win of the season on Wednesday at the Braun Athletic Center.
"Game ball has to go to the 150+ Oxy fans who made the trip to support our team," Oxy head coach Brian Newhall said. "That type of school spirit is what makes Oxy a special place to work. Our coaching staff and players greatly appreciated their support."
Juwan Rice led Oxy with nine rebounds, Ty Cobb grabbed eight and 5-foot-10 point guard Kory Hamane pulled down seven for Oxy. The Tigers outrebounded Caltech 50-31 and held a 24-11 edge on the boards in the first half alone when they jumped out to a 46-32 lead.
The other reason big reason for Oxy's big lead: Their press forced Caltech into turnovers, ill-advised quick shots and a tempo that looked uncomfortable for the Beavers. It led to transition opportunities and a big Oxy run toward the end of the first half.
Down 23-18 with 7:12 left, Kris Montoya scored 14 of his game-high 21 points during a 28-9 stretch that he iced with a three just before halftime.
Caltech crawled back into the game in the second half from the foul line, making 14 of 17 free throws.
The Beavers got their closest when Bryan Joel made one of his three 3-pointers, making it 77-74 with 1:15 left in the game. Caltech had the ball and a chance to tie or cut the lead to one, but Lawrence Lee's miss went out of bounds off of Caltech.
The Beavers fouled Hamane with 27 seconds left.
After missing the first free throw, Hamane made the second to make it a two-possession game. Oxy forced the Beavers into contested shots at the other end that took a lot of time off the clock on their last full possession. Johnson finally grabbed the rebound and made two free throws to end the game.
Oxy improves to 2-2 and 1-0 in SCIAC play. Caltech falls to 1-5 and 0-1.
This was not your typical Caltech team. The Beavers already beat Willamette this year — a team that lost to La Verne by six points and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by two.
"Our program has nothing but respect for the way athletic director Betsy Mitchell has re-built the Caltech athletic program," Newhall said. "Coach Oliver Eslinger has done a remarkable job upgrading the talent on his team. The 10 first-year players you saw tonight are going to win a lot of games over the next four years."
Oxy returns to the court on Saturday, hosting La Verne at 5 p.m.
"I was proud of our effort tonight," Newhall said. "We'll enjoy the win and move forward with preparation for a very talented La Verne team on Saturday night."