Photo by Noelle Davis
WHITTIER, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2017) – Senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) wove together a night for the ages to help keep Caltech's playoff hopes alive at Whittier College on Tuesday night, handing the Poets an 85-62 defeat to complete their first season sweep of Whittier since 1953-54.
Galliani erased the bittersweet memories from the past two games by shooting a cool 6-for-12 from beyond the arc for a career-high 25 points. He also factored in beneath the glass, pulling down nine rebounds (eight on defense) to nearly complete a double-double. The victory brings Caltech, which has played 12 conference games to everyone else's 11, to 5-7 in SCIAC play, while Whittier sinks to 3-8 in a tie for last place.
"Ricky exudes true senior leadership and work ethic," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "He is always focused and ready to go and tonight we started in a good rhythm as a team. We found him and he knocked down shots. I couldn't be happier for him."
Galliani heating up from three certainly helped boost the team's cumulative shooting percentage, but the senior had plenty of help on the offensive end. Fellow senior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) earned his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 6-for-10 from the field. Senior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) matched Galliani in coming one rebound shy of a double-double of his own, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood) followed up his 12-point, 12-rebound performance against Occidental College on Alumni Day with another 12-point effort and freshman Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif, / Folsom) coordinated the offense masterfully, dishing out seven assists without committing a single turnover. Andrews, however was not the only Caltech facilitator. Freshman Bret Johnson (Carlsbad, Calif. / Santa Fe Christian) distributed five assists of his own.
Caltech was so efficient in every other aspect of the game that the Beavers were able to overcome their continued woes from the free throw line, where they hit just nine compared to the hosts' 19. Eslinger's squad recorded its third-best shooting night of the season at 49 percent while limiting Whittier to a mere 31 percent and posting an 11-rebound advantage.
"We moved the ball very well, had a number of nice assists, and played a complete team game," Eslinger said. "We wanted to attack from all angles, with everyone, and thought we did that pretty well. We played a good chunk of the first half with David and Nasser not in, and the young guys really stepped up and executed on both ends. That shows our development as a program."
The Beavers put together a 44-point first half and then held Whittier to a meager 24 points in the second half after turning away a late first-half rally that saw the Poets pull back within five. Galliani scored 17 points in the opening frame, including hitting his first three three-point attempts, as Caltech looked to separate itself from the back half of teams in the SCIAC standings. The Beavers seized control in the second half with a quick start as Al-Rayes slammed home a dunk in transition on the heels of a Galliani steal, then Andrews knocked down a three-pointer 41 seconds later thanks to a pass from LeBaron. LeBaron then got in on the action with a layup before Al-Rayes went on the score the Beavers' next six points, putting the Poets in a deep hole early in the second half which rose to a game-high margin of 27 points one minute before the final whistle.
Eslinger and the Beavers will look to make it not just two consecutive wins, but consecutive season sweeps when they travel to Chapman University (9-11 overall, 4-7 SCIAC) for a 4 p.m. game this Saturday, Feb. 11. The Beavers sit alone in fifth place in the SCIAC standings, trailing a Postseason Tournament berth by 2.5 games, with a three-team tie for second place at 7-4 still muddying the playoff picture.
"We just have to stay focused day-to-day and put the forth our energy and effort as a group," Eslinger said. "It's a tight race but all we can do is play as best as we can."