PASADENA, Calif. (Jan. 3, 2017) – Senior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) scored a career-high 24 points and completed the double-double with 12 rebounds in the Caltech men's basketball team's 95-83 SCIAC-opening victory on Tuesday night.
With the win, Caltech starts SCIAC play 1-0 and breaks into a five-way tie for first place in the conference while Whittier drops to 0-2 in the SCIAC.
Al-Rayes started the scoring for the Beavers with two free throws and it was back-and-forth from there. After Caltech went up 7-4, Whittier fired back with an 8-0 run to take the lead, but senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) hit his second of four three-pointers to cut into the margin and fired up the Beavers' offense. Sophomore Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / St. Margaret's) would then enter the game and rattle off the next 11 points for Caltech as the hosts took back the lead from Whittier, 21-20.
The Beavers briefly stretched that lead to five before Whittier came back to tie the game at 33-33, but a layup by senior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker), an Al-Rayes jumper and Galliani trifecta staked the Beavers to a game-high seven-point edge with 3:26 remaining in the half.
The Poets fired back with a flurry of scoring, but it was met shot-for-shot by the Beavers, including an Al-Rayes dunk in the final minute. Sophomore Andrew Wang (Germantown, Md. / Poolesville) layed in an acrobatic shot with 11 seconds on the clock to keep it a two-possession game, but Poets leading scorer Louis Kurihara nailed a deep three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead to two going into the half, 44-42.
Caltech kept its offense rolling in the second half as LeBaron scored back-to-back buckets in the opening two minutes, with both baskets assisted by Al-Rayes. Another Galliani three began a seven-point run for Caltech before Whittier would score again and call a timeout. LeBaron kept the scoring going with a free throw and three-pointer to give Caltech its first 10-point lead of the contest with 14:26 remaining in the game, then sank a layup to negate a pair of Poets free throws.
Al-Rayes and Cahill then combined to score 17 of the Beavers' next 19 points before freshman Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) earned several trips to the free throw line, contributing to a game-high 18-point lead with 2:34 left to play. As Whittier resorted to fouling, the Poets managed to cut into the deficit a bit, but never came closer than nine. Al-Rayes capped the impressive team performance and set his new scoring mark with a thunderous dunk that sent the packed crowd into a frenzy.
Four Beavers scored in double digits, with Cahill notching 21 off the bench on 6-for-9 shooting and 9-for-11 from the free throw line. LeBaron and Galliani scored 18 and 15, respectively, with LeBaron adding five assists and Galliani grabbing nine rebounds.
Eslinger and the Beavers head to SCIAC rival Occidental College (8-2 overall, 0-1 SCIAC) on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. for a rematch of the season-opening 110 Rivalry game, in which Oxy prevailed, 61-45.