LONG BEACH (Nov. 5, 2016) -- The Caltech men's basketball team took another step forward in its season-opening exhibition game at Division I California State University, Long Beach before a sellout Homecoming crowd of 4,606 in attendance at the Walter Pyramid on Saturday night.
"There's so much to gain from playing a game like this," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "Playing in front of more people than we ever have was a great opportunity to focus on communication and engaging with each other. It also gave us a chance to play everyone and see how prepared we were at this stage. I'm proud of what we've done in a short time already, and we will keep working hard."
Determined not to allow the road nerves to get to them, the Beavers started strong. Senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) scored the game's first basket, a three-pointer, from junior David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood). A concentrated defensive effort prevented the 49ers from getting their high-octane offense going until later in the game. This mentality led to some standout individual performances for the Beavers and the game's exhibition nature allowed some key bench players to log some meaningful minutes.
"Having seven freshmen available to come in at various times and give us something good was very uplifting," Eslinger said. "I imagined all of our guys being able to contribute and that's what we saw. We have numerous lineup combinations and reinforcement options. I'm really happy we have this group of seniors to lead us into this season."
Galliani led the Beavers with 15 points and four rebounds within a team-high 26 minutes on the court. Senior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) struggled with his inside game but hit two-of-four three-point attempts to finish with eight points along with two rebounds and one assist. Freshman Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) led the Beavers in playing time off the bench, logging 25 minutes over which he compiled three points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal. Classmate Bret Johnson (Carlsbad, Calif. / Santa Fe Christian) had six points stemming from two three-pointers and added two assists in 20 minutes of action.
After the Beavers had held their ground through an 18-16 score line 10 minutes into the game, the host 49ers began to find their stride and maintained a frantic pace in the second half to take control of the game. Still, the Beavers had their moments. The Division III visitors went on a 13-4 run spanning nearly three minutes between 9:52 and 7:09 of the second half. Galliani, Al-Rayes and senior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) each hit one three-pointer during that span.
"The first 10 minutes were a lot of fun - to see us take the first lead and compete against a likely Division I NCAA Tournament team gave us great confidence. This was the best team we've ever played in terms of expectations and athleticism, so we came in just trying to pay attention to the work we've done in practice, our values and our effort. Our execution was great for the most part; we did what we've been working on and even made some plays when forced into unfamiliar spots."
Eslinger and the Beavers will play another exhibition game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Nov. 11 before kicking off the 2016-17 regular season with the third annual 110 Rivalry in Braun Gymnasium on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Friday's exhibition will be a rematch of the Beavers' first ever meeting with a Division I foe back in 2014.
This year marks the first time in program history the Beavers will have played two Division I opponents prior to the beginning of the regular season.