PASADENA, Calif. (Dec. 13, 2014) – Junior Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) carried the Caltech men's basketball offense with the fifth 20-point effort of his career as the Beavers took UC Santa Cruz to overtime in a back-and-forth thriller on Saturday evening.
The Banana Slugs rallied to force OT and win, 60-56, to improve to 3-8 while the Beavers drop to 0-6. UCSC shot the lights out at 51 percent to Caltech's 32 percent, negating the hosts' 16-5 edge from the free throw line.
"We made some terrific plays and I loved our defense for most of the game," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "The staff did a great job with the scouting report and we executed well from. I love where we are going and how we are working to get there."
Neither team was about to concede an early lead, keeping within one basket of each other through the first 14 minutes. Caltech went ahead 16-13 at the 7:43 mark behind eight straight points by sophomore David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) and stretched the margin out to as much as eight just 18 seconds before the break.
After a last-gasp layup made it 31-25 at halftime, the Beavers came out of the intermission looking to put the game away, posting a 7-2 run to take a game-high 11-point lead. A six-minute Caltech scoring drought allowed UCSC to rally, however, as the Banana Slugs rattled off 14 unanswered points to go up by three, 41-38, with 12 minutes left to play.
An 11-0 Beavers run over the next four minutes turned the tables as Caltech led by seven, but the Beavers would go about nine minutes without hitting a shot to once again allow the Banana Slugs back into the game.
After sophomore Lawrence Lee (Hong Kong / Hong Kong International School) sank a pair of free throws to regain a two-point lead at 51-49 with 2:41 remaining, UCSC hit a second-chance prayer with 2:04 to go. The Banana Slugs came up with a block on the Beavers' next possession and again got a second-chance opportunity on an offensive rebound, but senior Andrew Hogue (Arroyo Grande, Calif. / Arroyo Grande) stepped up to grab the defensive rebound and hit a go-ahead runner with just 34 seconds left on the clock. UCSC's Corey Cilia found just enough space to hit a mid-range jumper to tie things up on the next possession, and with Emezie's layup blocked as time expired, the game headed to overtime.
UCSC sank both its first two shots to open the period, and with the Beavers' backs nearly up against the wall, Emezie had an answer. The wing pulled down a contested rebound on the defensive end of the floor and drove hard into the lane on the ensuing possession, rolling in the layup and drawing a foul for the and-one opportunity, which he converted to make it a one-point game.
A UCSC layup made it 59-56 with 2:01 left to play, and despite a total of six chances to tie it back up, including Emezie and LeBaron each recording a steal and open three-point look, Caltech was left on the short end of a 60-56 final score.
"We had some great looks off some great actions in the closing minutes, they just didn't fall," Eslinger said. "They really came at us in the overtime and the good momentum carried them through. It was certainly a high-intensity finish."
Emezie led all scorers with 23 points on a typically efficient 7-of-12 (2-of-3 on three-pointers) shooting line and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Senior Bryan Joel (Bethesda, Md. / Walt Whitman) chipped in nine points, all on treys, while sophomore Luke Lango (San Diego, Calif. / Pacific Ridge School) recorded a solid four points, six rebounds and four assists coming off the bench. Sophomore Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) broke out as a serious defensive presence in the paint, blocking four shots and adding five points, two rebounds, one assist and a steal in just 15 minutes.
"We rode Kc for a bit, and he delivered," Eslinger said. "Joel was terrific, Luke had his best floor game to date, Nasser is really showing some strong stuff and Nick [Buoniconti] is starting to lead the defensive effort."
Eslinger and the Beavers will look to bounce back as they host Transylvania University (1-5) on Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.