Photo by Nhi Casey
ORANGE, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2017) – Senior Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) and freshman Bret Johnson (Carlsbad, Calif. / Santa Fe Christian) both put together career performances for Caltech in Saturday's men's basketball loss at Chapman University.
Al-Rayes outdid himself once again, and continued his recent stretch of success by leading the Beavers with 16 points and an eye-popping 17 rebounds. He played nearly the entire 40 minutes and used his size and skillset to keep things close with the Panthers for the game's entirety. Ironically, just six of Al-Rayes' rebounds came in the first half when the Beavers clung to a one-point lead over the Panthers at halftime. He also led the team with four assists and added one block to his defensive profile.
The latter guard, meanwhile came off the bench to provide the Beavers with a perfect 5-for-5 shooting day which included three three-pointers. Johnson finished the game with 13 points in 21 minutes of action. After spending much of the season shooting just 25-percent from the field, Saturday's game could provide Johnson some much needed confidence going forward into the Beavers' final three games of the season.
In spite of Johnson's accuracy from deep, Caltech' overall willingness to take chances from deep ultimately cost them, as no Beaver outside of Johnson was able to connect from three. The Beavers also got to the free throw line just three times and outfouled the Panthers 24-13 between the two halves of play.
That is not to say the Beavers didn't have their moments early, particularly in the first half when they looked poised to complete the elusive season sweep of the Panthers after having done so at Whittier College earlier in the week. Junior David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood) got Caltech on the board first with a quick layup, though the Panthers took control back shortly after the 15-minute mark. Caltech hung tough, however and closed the period on a 7-2 scoring run capped off by one of Johnson's three-pointers with just one second remaining on a pass from Al-Rayes. The Panthers closed the door on the idea of a Caltech sweep when they outscored the Beavers 18-9 over the final six minutes of the contest. Now 5-8 in SCIAC play, Caltech's playoff hopes look slim to none as long as 8-4 California Lutheran University wins at least one of its final four games.
Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger and the Beavers will continue the team's stretch run on Thursday when they host the University of La Verne at 7 p.m.