FULLERTON, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2016) -- The Caltech men's basketball team rounded out its preseason schedule when it took on Division I California State University, Fullerton at Titan Gym on Friday night. The Titans were not the first DI team the Beavers saw this preseason, with Caltech previously having battled Big West Conference favorite Long Beach State the prior weekend. Friday's game marked the second time the Beavers have played the Titans, as the first meeting back in 2014 was Caltech's first game in program history against a Division I opponent.
"The reason we play these Division I games is to help us prep in the best manner possible for the rest of the season," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "They provide great challenges since they are on the road and we don't have much info on the opponents. They allow us to really look at every detail of the game. Plus, they are really fun to be involved in."
Determined not to allow the road nerves to get to them, the Beavers started strong. Senior big man Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) held his own against a larger Titans squad by making plays both in the paint and on the perimeter. He drained the game's first shot, a three-pointer on a pass from fellow senior Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) to give the Beavers an early boost and finished the game 3-for-9 from beyond the arc. The versatile center was an especially big part of the Beavers' game plan early on, as he logged 13 of the team's 18 first-half points, while Galliani finished the contest with four points of his own.
As the Titans began to find their rhythm offensively, the Beavers responded with a more aggressive defensive approach in the second half. Al-Rayes fouled out with three minutes remaining, but not before gathering a team-high 17 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Freshman guard Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) found his way into the starting lineup and tied Al-Rayes for the team lead in minutes. He made three of four shots for seven points to round out the scoring for the Beavers. Senior David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) played for 24 minutes and while he was unable to contribute any points, he did chip in with three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
The Beavers trailed the Titans by a mere 12 points with just over a minute remaining in the first half and had a chance to cut the lead to 10 after LeBaron stole the ball, but he missed the layup in transition. The Titans would then convert on two three-pointers before the end of the half to make it an 18-point margin. Still, the Beavers held their own and used their time on the court against a superior team to work on specific areas in need of improvement.
"It was a good second exhibition in that it was a tough game on the road against great athleticism," Eslinger said. "We came out ready and focused on specific details. That was good to see. We created good opportunities for ourselves on both ends of the court."
The next time Eslinger and the Beavers take the court will be the regular season opener in Braun Gymnasium on Tuesday, Nov. 15 against SCIAC foe Occidental in what will mark the third installment of the 110 Rivalry. With the series tied at 1-1, the game will carry its fair share of importance, but Eslinger and his team are eager to show just how far they've come when they take the floor on Tuesday.
"We prepare to be successful at each phase of the game," Eslinger said. "We are amped about the season opener and believe there is exciting basketball ahead on Tuesday and way beyond. Our fans are going to see some dynamic basketball."