WHITTIER, Calif. (Dec. 21, 2017) – Sophomore guard Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) wove together the best game of his Caltech career to boost the men's basketball team over host Whittier College, 86-82, on Thursday afternoon. The win marks the Beavers' third in the last four games and their third straight against the Poets dating back to last season.
"The win feels wonderful," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "Anytime you step into a conference road game, especially with us being the last SCIAC team to play in conference, it's just an enormous win for the program. If you can find ways to win on the road in this league it just helps you so much."
Andrews diced the Poets for 23 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc. His five three-pointers helped the Beavers to a new team record – 14 three-pointers in a single game. The achievement seemed to be on the horizon after the Beavers tied the previous record of 12 three's on two separate occasions this year. Andrews furthered his outstanding stat line with seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Beavers in both statistical categories. Not to be outdone, Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook) also did his part to earn his team both the win and the record, scoring 22 points while contributing four three-pointers and seven rebounds. Schneider has now scored at least 10 points in each of the first nine games of his Caltech career. The last player to do that was Mike Edwards '13, who reached double-figures in each of the first 18 games of his career.
Both Andrews and Schneider put 18 shots away between them and the team shot 54-percent from the field as a whole. The duo's effectiveness led to Caltech producing its first pair of 20-point scorers since last year's victory over Whittier, also the team's SCIAC opener. However, the Beavers' shooting efficiency is just as evident in the team's rebound count. Caltech picked up 29 of its 34 rebounds on the defensive end, which is further credit to how well they shot considering the Beavers matched the Poets' rebounding total.
"Both of those guys stepped up and Alec led us from start to finish," Eslinger said. "He made great decisions, played such a great team game but also got in a rhythm. If he gets like that we can be really dangerous and brought great flow and balance to the team today. Spencer was in attack mode and playing very confidently in what was a really gutsy effort. This team is very unselfish so we wanted to move the ball and we wanted to turn good shots into great shots, and I think that showed since everyone scored."
Caltech trailed Whittier 63-53 with 13:28 remaining before outscoring the visiting team 33-19 the rest of the way. The Beavers erased the deficit for good when Andrews drained a three-pointer with just over seven minutes to go in regulation. Caltech held the lead for the remainder of the game, but the home team remained defiant and never trailed by more than five points. The visitors took care of business down the stretch, however with the last field goal coming on a Schneider layup on a feed from sophomore forward Ross Carter (Sudbury, Mass. / The Rivers School).
Caltech also notably shot above 70-percent from the free throw line and more than 10-percent above its season-average. Freshman guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) did his part with another 4-for-4 day at the line and is among the nation's leading free throw shooters. The Beavers' ability to knock down free throws is especially crucial if they are looking to win games decided by five points or less, such is the case with Wednesday's win. Not only did Gee's four free throws make all the difference in the scoring margin, they marked Caltech's final four points of the game. Gee finished the game with 10 points.
"Those were the clutch shots to make it a two possession game," Eslinger said. "We hardly shot any free throws but we made enough of them and so many times times it's what these games come down to. You have to play every possession and if you make just enough plays to finish that's all you need. Even though we were down in the second half we just kept stringing together defensive stops, took the right shots and played with constant resilience.
"It's what good teams do."
Eslinger and the Beavers will have one more game before year's end when they host Buena Vista University on Friday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. Confidence should be high as the team heads towards an eight-day break over spanning over Christmas.
"For me, the break will be a time of reflection," Eslinger said. "We need to remember the winning feeling and how we made it happen, then get ready to regenerate the feeling because we'll turn right around to play a good team. I know the team will go into the holidays feeling happy and confident about this first SCIAC win and we'll do whatever we can to muster that energy back."