LOS ANGELES – In a nip-and-tuck game that came down to the final seconds, Occidental pulled out a 57-54 win on Saturday evening.
Playing in front of a highly energetic crowd, the two squads battled from the outset as neither team held lead larger than 10 points. Occidental put together the first significant scoring run of the game just past the midway point of the first half. Leading 16-14 with 7:52 left until intermission, the Tigers scored 10 of the next 12 points to push their advantage to 26-16 with 3:03 remaining.
The Beavers responded to the home teams spurt as they finished the period by scoring the final eight points. Luke Lango capped off the scoring run by nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer as the teams went into locker room with Occidental leading 26-25.
As the second half started Caltech carried that momentum forward. They scored on four of their first five possessions as they took a 33-31 lead less than three minutes into the stanza. Occidental responded by scoring nine unanswered points to grab a 42-33 edge. An already high tension affair was made more so as the game continued on.
Down 44-41, Caltech had an opportunity to tie the game but a Bryan Joel three-pointer with 9:41 left didn't connect. Two possessions later Occidental up their lead to five points on Ty Cobb lay-in. The Tigers were able to keep their advantage at two possessions but never more than two. A Ricky Galliani put back with 4:34 left brought the Beavers within 49-47.
Occidental slowly built up their lead. When Joe Compagno hit two shots from the charity stripe the home team held a 57-50 edge with just over two minutes left. The Beavers scratched the way back into with a tenacious defense and persistent offense. After falling behind by seven points, Andrew Hogue hit a pair of free throws with 1:52 remaining on the clock.
Both teams came up empty on their ensuing possessions. Caltech had a determined next possession as they missed their first two lay-ups but offensive rebounds and ultimately a put back by Kc Emezie help set-up a dramatic finish. Caltech was down 57-54 with just over 30 seconds left.
Forced the foul, Caltech sent Kory Hamane to the foul line for a one-plus-one opportunity with 21 ticks left. After missing the first chance the Beavers grabbed the rebound and called timeout to set-up their last possession. They worked the ball around to Lango whose three-pointer from the right side hit off the rim and the buzzer sounded as a put back lay-up attempt didn't fall either.
Caltech fought off a tough shooting night by putting together a solid night on the boards. The Beavers held a 36-33 edge in total rebounds. On the offensive end Caltech, who came into the came as the third best offensive rebounding team in the SCIAC, grabbed 14 which they converted into 21 second chance points.
Lawrence Lee had the best game of his young collegiate career. The first-year scored a career high 22 points on the strength of a perfect 10-for-10 effort from the foul line. Lee converted on half of his 12 field goal attempts. The Hong Kong native also grabbed a game high seven rebounds.
Hogue scored in double figures for the fourth time in six games with a 10-point evening. Emezie had an eight-point, three-block performance.
Kris Montoya had a team best 14 points while Joe Compagno, Juwan Rice and Cobb all recorded 11-point efforts.