PASADENA (Feb. 2, 2017) – With two minutes and 39 seconds left to go in regulation, the Caltech men's basketball team found itself on the verge of adding another piece of history to its growing 2017 resume. After all, it had been just one week to the day since the Beavers knocked off Chapman University for the first time in 63 years. On this particular Thursday, Caltech took first-place SCIAC powerhouse Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges into deep waters and almost closed the door on the Stags entirely. Almost.
Senior center Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) did his part, scoring 20 points to go with eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists on two beautiful passes from the top of the key. Fellow senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) pulled down 10 rebounds of his own and sophomore Brent Cahill (Laguna Beach, Calif. / St. Margaret's) returned to the lineup to give Caltech a needed shot in the arm with 17 points in 26 minutes of action.
After converting on an improbable layup beneath the basket, freshman Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) went to the line looking to complete a three-point play to put the Beavers up by two. The ball made it to the hoop but fell off the side of the rim into the hands of a CMS defender. Missed free throws turned out to be the story of the Beavers' night and after a Kendrick Morris putback and Michael Scarlett jumper over two Caltech defenders, time expired and the Beavers fell to the Stags, 66-61.
The Beavers actually took a five-point lead with them into halftime. Leading CMS, 35-30 at the break, both teams shot the ball with precision and accuracy in the first frame. Caltech shot 44.1 percent from the field while CMS shot 47.8 percent. While the visitors' percentage still resided beneath their season average of just over 50 percent, Caltech's normalizing field goal percentage did not do them in as much as a different shooting percentage. The Beavers shot a paltry 8-for-21 from the free throw line, and made just three of 10 attempts in the first half. Things improved only slightly in the second half and had Caltech made just six more free throws (66.6 percent), this story would be taking on a significantly different tone. The Beavers led by as many as nine points thanks to a 13-6 run between the 10 and four minute mark of the first half. A Cahill layup capped off the run and all of Caltech's points during the run came from Cahill and Al-Rayes.
One positive takeaway for the Beavers has been a marked game-to-game decrease in turnovers. After turning the ball over 17 times in the season opener against Occidental College back in mid-November, Caltech turned it over just seven times against the SCIAC's top team. Should this trend continue, the Beavers could be in for a big final stretch of the season.
Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger and the Beavers will look to get back on track when they take on Occidental for the third time this season and second time in Braun Gymnasium. The Alumni Day clash is set to begin at 7 p.m.