PASADENA, CA – A hard fought thrilling game went Caltech's way on Saturday afternoon as the Beavers rallied to post a 70-67 overtime win over UC Santa Cruz.
"A really gutsy effort from our guys in the second half," head coach Oliver Eslinger said. "After a so-so first half it was really awesome to see us elevate our game by diving after loose balls, hustling on defense and never quitting."
A well balanced scoring attack in the first half proved lethal for the Banana Slugs. The visitors held a 35-25 lead at the break as nine of the 10 players who came into the game broke into the scoring column.
UC Santa Cruz led from the opening tip. Leading 14-12 with 13:04 left they stretched their lead into the double figures courtesy of a 11-0 scoring spurt during a six-plus minute stretch in the middle portion of the half. With 1:52 left until halftime the visitors held a 35-21 lead which was their largest lead of the half.
With a tough as nails effort, the Beavers rebounded well in the second frame. A Kc Emezie three-pointer with 9:32 remaining gave Caltech their first lead of the game at 48-47. Neither team would hold a lead larger than three points the rest of the half while the score changed hands three times and was tied twice.
An Ilan Zur three-pointer with 4:23 left gave the Banana Slugs a 56-54 lead as the visitors wouldn't trail the rest of the half but couldn't shake the pesky Beavers. Caltech sent the game into overtime when Luke Lango made one of two free throws with 17 seconds left. Zur had a three-pointer on the Banana Slugs next possession at the buzzer go long off the rim.
The final five minutes belonged to the Beavers. After a Zur lay-in to start the extra session, Caltech scored nine straight points to take a 69-62 lead with 1:58 left. UC Santa Cruz made it tight but scoring five straight points of their own with their run concluding on a Spencer Wells lay-up with 29 seconds left.
On Caltech's final possession Emezie made one of two free throws to give the Beavers a 70-67 lead with seven ticks left. UC Santa Cruz's three-pointer by Matthew Ponce at the buzzer went off the rim to seal the win for Caltech.
Zur had a team best 11 points to pace the Banana Slugs.