The Beavers improve to 3-8 overall and start SCIAC play 2-0 for the second consecutive season, while the Tigers drop to 8-3, 0-2. The victory marks Caltech's fourth in its last five games against Oxy over the past two years and maintains a share of the conference lead alongside Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer Colleges.
Al-Rayes scored the first seven points for the Beavers as Oxy took a 12-7 lead before freshman Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) drilled a three to cut the Tigers lead to two and Al-Rayes followed on the next possession with a layup to tie the game at 14-14 with 8:05 on the clock. Al-Rayes would score 13 of Caltech's first 18 points in the first half, combining well with senior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) in the post against the undersized Tigers. Sophomore Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / St. Margaret's) then went coast-to-coast after a defensive rebound to stake Caltech to the lead after finishing an acrobatic layup with 4:35 remaining in the half.
Oxy mustered two buckets in the waning minutes while Caltech went nearly four full minutes without a basket to move ahead, 20-18. LeBaron tied the gameon a hard-fought layup with roughly 40 seconds remaining in the half, but Oxy knocked down a baseline jumper with two seconds left on the clock to hold a two-point margin at the half.
Caltech's offense exploded to open the second half, which carried over to the defensive end as the Beavers held Oxy scoreless over the first 4:33 while rattling off 12 unanswered points without missing a single shot. Al-Rayes kicked things off with a dagger three-pointer to regain the lead, then combined with senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) on the next nine points for the 32-22 lead, forcing Oxy to take an early timeout. Over the next 10 minutes, Oxy steadily clawed back into the contest while Al-Rayes went to the bench with four fouls. A put-back tied the game at 39-39 with 6:11 remaining, prompting Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger to send Al-Rayes back onto the floor just as Cahill converted a layup and drew a foul, then sank the ensuing free throw to complete the go-ahead three-point play. On the next two possessions, Al-Rayes and Galliani knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to move back ahead by seven and LeBaron rounded out the clutch senior trio with a put-back to hold the margin at 50-43 with 3:17 left to play. Oxy would pull back within a basket as First Team All-SCIAC forward Andrew Johnson muscled his way to the basket on consecutive possessions, but a pair of jumpers by Andrews kept Caltech in front and Cahill hit both free throws once Oxy resorted to fouling with 37 seconds remaining to seal the game.
Galliani finished with nine points and four rebounds while LeBaron contributed a full stat line of eight points, nine rebounds and six assists. Cahill added seven points, five boards and three assists off the bench.
Eslinger and the Beavers will have an opportunity to claim sole possession of first place in the SCIAC as they square off at CMS (9-1, 2-0) on Saturday, Jan. 7 for a 7 p.m. game.