Photo by Michael Wong
REDLANDS, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2016) – The backcourt trio of freshman Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Laguna Beach), junior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) and sophomore David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood) was absolutely terrific as yet another second-half comeback by Caltech men's basketball short by the slimmest of margins in a 75-71 defeat at the University of Redlands on Monday night.
With the loss, Caltech drops to 8-13 overall and 6-6 in the SCIAC, which puts the Beavers just outside of the playoff picture in fifth place for the first time this season. Redlands holds a half-game lead on the Beavers for fourth at 6-5 and evens its record at 10-10 overall.
Caltech was undone by a 22-7 disadvantage in second-chance points thanks to Redlands grabbing 18 offensive rebounds while narrowly outshooting the visitors, 43-42 percent from the field and 50-44 percent beyond the arc.
The Beavers fell into an early 14-4 hole which could have been much worse if not for junior Lawrence Lee (Hong Kong / Hong Kong International School) single-handedly keeping the visitors in it as he knocked down a three-pointer, then was fouled on another and sank all three free throws to cancel out another pair of consecutive threes from the hot-shooting Bulldogs. Redlands still managed to surge ahead by 12 at 22-10 just before the midpoint in the first half, but the Caltech offense exploded for 12 points on the next five straight possessions thanks in part to three consecutive assists by Kawashima while allowing just two points to pull back within a basket with 8:06 remaining.
Redlands responded with seven unanswered points to stretch back out to a nine-point lead with 5:49 on the clock. Cahill hit two free throws to help keep the deficit in single digits, then ended a three-and-a-half-minute scoreless drought with a layup to bring Caltech within five. The Bulldogs had another quick answer, however, as center Blake O'Brien hit a layup in the post and dropped in a three-pointer to extend the margin back to double digits with 3:52 left in the half.
Caltech would hold Redlands to just one more basket before the break while sinking five free throws and getting a layup from Cahill, who racked up the Beavers' final six points of the half in a two-minute span to take his team into halftime down five at 38-33.
As has been typical for the Beavers this season, Caltech came out of the intermission on another level, immediately pulling back within a basket on a Lee layup and making it a two-point game as Galliani hit one of two free throws after a technical foul assessed to the Redlands bench. The junior proceeded to drill back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 42-42 just three minutes into the second half and suddenly it was a new ballgame.
Although the Beavers went another six minutes with just a single basket as Redlands built up another seven-point lead, Caltech would score another 10 points on consecutive possessions over the next two minutes to storm back within three at 57-54 with 8:52 left to play. That margin more or less held for the next three minutes as the Bulldogs could not separate again by more than five until three straight baskets were followed by a dagger second-chance three-pointer that made it 71-62 with just 3:53 remaining.
The Beavers refused to give in, however, as Galliani and junior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) followed with back-to-back trifectas to pull within a basket yet again and Kawashima earned a trip to the line on the next possession, where he hit the second to make it a two-point game with 1:15 left on the clock. Cahill drove and lofted a scoop shot in to cancel out a Redlands jumper and Caltech called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining.
Needing a defensive stop to have a chance for the game-tying basket, Caltech got more than that as Cahill stripped the ball at midcourt and the fast break was on. The rookie sensation drove to his right, lofted his shot with both the defender's arms reaching over his head and the shot rolled just an inch short as no whistle blew and Redlands pulled down the rebound. With no choice but to foul, the Beavers sent Kyle Husslein, who had hit what proved to be the game-winner, to the line, where he sank both to seal the win.
Cahill led the Beavers with a career-high 19 points, including going 8-for-11 at the free throw line, and made a team-high three steals. Galliani continued his recent hot shooting with 16 points as he went a career-best 5-for-9 from long range and did not commit a single turnover; he is now 8-for-16 from beyond the arc in his last two games. Kawashima paced the squad with nine rebounds and five assists against just two turnovers while also grabbing two steals and blocking a shot. Al-Rayes and Lee chipped in 14 and 10 points, respectively, as each grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists against just one turnover, with Al-Rayes also recording four blocks to set a new single-season program record (55).
Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger and the Beavers will enjoy a five-day break from competition and get a fresh look at the playoff picture as the rest of the conference plays this Wednesday. Caltech heads to third-place Whittier College (12-8, 7-4) on Saturday, Feb. 13 for a 2 p.m. tipoff.