PASADENA (Nov. 23, 2019) – The Caltech men's basketball team defeated Occidental College, 50-49, in Saturday's sixth-annual 110 Rivalry game. The win marks Caltech's second victory in the rivalry game since the tradition began in 2014, its first victory over the Tigers since the 2016-17 season and the first time the program has delivered back-to-back non-conference road wins.
The game proved to be a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to gain a huge advantage on the other. Nine lead changes told the story for both Caltech and Oxy, but the Beavers managed to control the game and execute at their pace for the majority of the contest. As a result, Caltech never trailed by more than four points at any point of Saturday's non-conference game.
"I was very proud of our poise in that game," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "We never lost our sense of purpose. Our guys really focused on each possession. Even as the momentum shifted, tonight really tested our character to come back and make the next play."
The Tigers knocked down a three-pointer with 55 seconds to go in regulation to take a one-point lead. Rather than opting to call a timeout, Eslinger and his staff allowed their team the opportunity to execute in a manner as they had been all game. With senior guard Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) back in the lineup running the point, the Beavers got the ball inside to freshman center Pavlos Stavrinides (Nicosia, Cyprus / The English School of Nicosia), who thanks to his size and uncanny athleticism put in an easy go-ahead shot from short-range to give his team the lead for good. Occidental managed to find one more open look in the game's final possession, but the Beavers maintained their aggressive nature on the rebound to ensure this opportunity would be the Tigers' last.
Andrews' return provided the Beavers with a much-needed boost on the road. The senior opened the game with a pair of effortless three-pointers to give the visitors an early spark, and while his second trey would be his final field goal, Andrews affected the game in every other area, as he tends to do. Four athletic steals, eight rebounds and five assists filled out the senior's line, and he especially excelled at finding his teammates in opportunisitc situations, particularly junior guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica), who led Caltech with 19 points on 50-percent shooting.
"It's great to see Alec back in the lineup," Eslinger said. "He demonstrated the saviness and basketball IQ we've come to grow used to in recent years."
Significant defensive improvements from a year ago have been the tell-tale sign for the Beavers' success over the last week. The team's impressive run of defensive performances began when it held the University of Puget Sound to 29 first-half points, then limited University of California, Santa Cruz to 53 points in regulation before winning in double overtime. On Saturday, Caltech forced Oxy into 13 team turnovers - the Tigers' most all season - and held the home team to just 21 points at halftime. Andrews, Gee and sophomore Noah Barnes (Springfield, Va. / Jefferson) forced the opposing guards into tough shots all game long, and while the Tigers managed to connect on some tough looks, the Beavers largely succeeded in shutting down a team less than one year removed from a SCIAC playoff appearance.
The defensive nature of the game went both ways, as the Beavers were forced to convert on some tough shots of their own. Gee hit one of his three-pointers with his vision obstructed and, with just over two minutes remaining, hit a beautiful fadeaway jumper with his feet inches off the ground from the elbow.
Caltech also matched Oxy in the rebounding department with 39 team rebounds. The freshman Stavrinides accounted for 14 of them and also added 13 points in a career-high 30-minute performance.
"It wasn't a 'stat game' for anyone, but our defense was phenomenal," Eslinger said. "The players stuck to our principles and it shows in the result. There were some brilliant sequences. We had a number of defensive stands and made a few runs that gave us just enough of a lead, and a big shout out goes ot the Caltech fans who showed up to cheer us on."
Eslinger and the Beavers will look to make it three consecutive wins when they host undefeated Hamilton College (4-0) on Thanksgiving Eve at 5 p.m.