Photo by Bob Paz
PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2016) – Junior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) poured in 18 points to pace Caltech men's basketball to a program-record-tying sixth SCIAC win this season with a 64-60 victory over Cal Lutheran University on Saturday night.
Caltech rallied from a six-point halftime deficit that quickly became nine early in the second half to pull within a basket with 12:10 remaining and tie the game at 7:19. Once in position, Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger's squad made several key plays down the stretch and hit five of their final six free throws to seal the victory.
"This was a really gutsy performance in a heck of a battle tonight," Eslinger said. "I loved what we did in the second half – tremendous defense, stringing together stops and executing offensively. We did a great job turning stops into points quickly."
That transition game was evident in the Beavers outscoring the Kingsmen 17-8 off turnovers, as well as outshooting CLU 50-37 percent from the field and 31-12 percent from beyond the arc to overcome a five-turnover disadvantage in a game that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes.
The Beavers improve to 8-12 overall and 6-5 in the SCIAC while CLU drops to 8-10 (4-7).
Caltech now holds a half-game lead on Monday's opponent, the University of Redlands, for fourth place in the conference. The Beavers also hold the tiebreaker over two of the other four teams that sit a game below them in the standings thanks to sweeps of CLU and Occidental.
After both teams went scoreless over nearly the first two minutes, Galliani and CLU's Jeremy Sulker-Hall combined for all nine points in a one-minute span as Caltech edged ahead, 5-4. The Beavers reclaimed the lead shortly after a CLU tip-in and held it through the midpoint of the half. A four-point play for the Kingsmen flipped the margin in the visitors' favor with 6:01 left in the first half and CLU rattled off a 15-6 run to close out the half with a six-point lead at halftime, with 30 of their 33 points courtesy of Sulker-Hall and Austin Cole.
Two sets of free throws and another Sulker-Hall jumper extended the margin to a game-high nine points at 39-30 with 16:35 left to play. Sophomore David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood) hit an unconventional runner and drew the foul for the three-point play to cut the deficit to six and Galliani got back to work, knocking down a pair of threes, coming up with a steal and driving for a contested fast break layup to make it a one-basket game at 43-41 with 12:10 remaining.
After a pair of CLU free throws, the junior ran a backdoor cut for another layup and senior Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) kept it a two-point game with a spinning layup from the opposite block thanks to a smart pass from junior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha).
The Kingsmen stretched back out by four and both teams held firm on defense for the next two minutes, but Caltech would score on the next five possessions as freshman Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Laguna Beach) forced his way into the lane to earn a trip to the line and hit the second free throw pull back within a basket. Al-Rayes dished to junior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker), who made a nice cut on the next possession, hit the contested layup and went to the line, where he converted the and-one to tie the game at 49-49.
Emezie canceled out a pair of CLU free throws with an incredible spin in the post to keep the game tied and Cahill earned another two chances at the charity stripe, which he sank to take the lead by two. CLU's Dan Wade tied the game with an acrobatic layup but Emezie matched him again to retain the edge.
As the clock ticked under five minutes to play, Sulker-Hall and Wade hit consecutive shots to take the Kingsmen back in front by two. With the shot clock winding down on Caltech at the other end, Cahill fought his way to the rim once again and his shot fell to tie things up at 57-57. Kawashima then sent the Beavers back ahead with an ankle-breaking crossover and layup with 2:42.
Caltech's defense forced a pair of misses at the other end and Cahill and Al-Rayes went to the line for two apiece and hit both to make it a five-point game with 25 seconds left to go. A CLU layup brought the margin back to three, but the Beavers managed to get the ball to Galliani on the inbounds. The junior was fouled and hit the first of two chances to seal the win for the hosts.
Galliani's 18 points came on 7-for-13 shooting, including a 3-for-7 day from long range, and added nine rebounds. This was the shooting guard's first game hitting a trio of threes since he knocked down three in four of the first six games of the season. Emezie added 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting while Al-Rayes chipped in nine points, 10 rebounds and three assists and Kawashima contributed nine points, four rebounds and four assists against just one turnover.
"Dk was amazing – he is fun to watch when he is so focused and making plays," Eslinger said. "What a rhythm Ricky found, he was really filling it up. We have a quick turnaround here to prepare for Monday but we like where the guys' minds are at this point."
Eslinger and the Beavers head out to Redlands (9-10, 5-5) on Monday, Feb. 8 looking to solidify their hold on fourth place in the standings.