SANTA CRUZ, CA – The Beavers started well but couldn't continue that early momentum as they fell to Linfield 60-54 at the Hilton Winter Tournament hosted by UC Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon.
Caltech was clicking on all cylinders during the game's first 6:42. The Beavers held the Wildcats to just one field goal en route to a building a 15-4 lead. Four different players scored for Caltech, led by Bryan Joel's five points, during that early outburst.
Linfield responded with a scoring burst of their own. During the contest's next 6:28, the Wildcats outscored Caltech 14-2 as they took their first lead of the game 18-17. The lead changed hands four times over the next four-plus minutes. Linfield grew a 23-22 lead by scoring the half's final nine points in taking a 32-22 lead at the intermission.
One of main culprits for the Beavers was a 14-turnover half which Linfield turned into 15 points in building their 10-point lead and helping them overcome their early deficit.
The Wildcats were able to keep their lead in double digits from a majority of the second half but a defiant Caltech team fought back. Despite being down by 52-35 with just over eight minutes left the Beavers dwindled that lead down to single digits.
After seemingly having the game wrapped up, Linfield was forced to hit foul shots down the stretch. Joel hit a three-pointer with 16 ticks left to bring the Beavers within 57-51. The Wildcats hit just one of two free throws on their ensuing possession then Joel hit another three-pointer with seven seconds left. With Caltech down 58-54, they pressured the inbounds but Linfield was able to put the ball in-play then sealed the game with a pair of free throws.
Joel led all scorers with 20 points on the strength of four made shots from behind the arc during his 7-for-12 shooting effort. Lawrence Lee hit all five of his field goal attempts in helping him produce a 13-point effort. The first-year also grabbed a game high and career best eight rebounds in helping Caltech hold a plus-eight rebounding edge.
Mason Rodby came off the bench and went 8-for-9 from the floor in leading all Linfield scorers with 17 points.