PASADENA (Dec. 21, 2018) – The Caltech men's basketball team got back on track Saturday with another close victory, 64-60, over visiting Lewis & Clark Colleges to move to 5-3 on the season with three of those wins happening in the previous eight days. The Beavers' start to the 2018-19 season is also the program's best ever against NCAA competition.
The up-and-down game featured seven lead changes but ultimately landed on a high note thanks to late-game heroics from sophomore guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica). The shooter closed the game with 22 points and a trio of three-pointers but scored the Beavers' final 10 points of the game and 16 total points in the second half. With seven-and-a-half minutes to go in regulation, the Beavers held a 12 point lead but faced a big run from the surging Pioneers, who threatened to take a late lead, that is, until Gee broke the run with 2:22 remaining with a clutch three-pointer off a pass from sophomore forward Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook). From there, the Beavers did all they could to get the ball into Gee's hands, who went on to make 7-of-8 on free throws down the stretch to help secure the win.
"That free throw was just another shot for me," Gee said. "It's all the same. I just know that when I step up there with confidence I can hit any shot in the game, and as long as I'm taking good ones, the ball will go in sometimes. Our guys are always encouraging me to take those shots and do a great job of finding me in the critical moments."
Facing adversity once again, Caltech overcame it with grit and a will to win. Though the Beavers led in moments throughout the first half, it was not until the second half where they began to find a rhythm, dicing the visitors to the tune of a 20-4 run to open the second half. Though Gee's shooting had an instrumental role in the Beavers pulling ahead in the second half, six different players scored during the run, with guards Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) and Gokul Srinivasaragavan (San Ramon, Calif. / Dougherty Valley) being chief among them. Each player delivered with 10 points and a pair of three-pointers apiece, while Andrews also contributed with four assists, tying Schneider for the team lead.
"It feels awesome to get back in the win column," Andrews said. "We needed to make sure to not worry about the score affecting our flow and what we do on both ends. In the end, I thought we came up with stops, got clutch buckets and once we got focused again we began to dictate our pace again and get our lead back."
Both teams proved to be evenly matched in most metrics. While the Beavers managed to win the rebounding battle by a narrow margin, they also succeeded in returning to the pragmatic approach on offense and frenetic defensive pace that helped net them their three prior wins. Three different players came up with two steals and junior center Ross Carter (Sudbury, Mass. / The Rivers School) scored himself a pair of rejections while operating in the defensive paint. In the end, nine different players scored and each of the team's 10 players checked into the game for the first time this season. On Friday evening, the Beavers' togetherness proved to be their greatest asset.
"Each of these games is a grind and thankfully we made enough plays to go 3-1 this week," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "I am proud of our ability to bounce back after the emotions of these close games have come into focus. It's a testament that we ground it out successfully. We have different guys step up on a game-to-game basis and I think that's what makes this team so great."
Eslinger and the Beavers will return after Christmas when they host Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday Dec. 29.