PASADENA (Nov. 21, 2018) – The Caltech men's basketball team pulled out all the stops late to defeat visiting Carleton College, 62-59, on Thanksgiving Eve.
Caltech had not led since the game's opening five minutes but took the lead back thanks to a 17-10 run late in the second half and a pair of gutsy plays from its juniors. First, Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) drove to the hole and completed a layup to knot the game at 51 and on the ensuing possession, forward Ross Carter (Sudbury, Mass. / The Rivers School) shot a deep ball that bounced around the rim before trickling in, giving the Beavers a big three-point advantage with just over 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Knights came at the Beavers hard until the very end, sending freshman guard Noah Barnes (Springfield, Va. / Jefferson) to the line twice, needing to knock down free throws to keep the advantage for his side. Carleton responded with a pair of three-pointers, but Barnes, along with Andrews went a combined 6-for-6 at the line over the game's final 30 seconds, with Barnes' key steal at the 31-second mark proving vital to the Beavers moving to 2-1.
"We really started to come together on the defensive end," Barnes said. "We had to fight through their screens to contest them, but we stayed poised the whole time, got the lead and hit our free throws. Anytime you can go out there and gut it out like we did, especially having struggles in the first half it feels good and very satisfying to get the job done."
The Beavers overcame some first-half adversity, committing seven fouls to the Knights' one, but managed to spike Carleton's foul count early to eventually trigger the double-bonus late, guaranteeing Caltech a pair of foul shots after the visitors began to foul. Additionally, Caltech came up on the winning side of the turnover battle for the third straight game, allowing the Beavers to make up for other areas, while doubling up the Knights, 18-9, in points off turnovers. While Caltech has traditionally come up on the short end of similar games in years past, Wednesday's ending could be an indicator of the changing times.
"This is just a great group to coach," Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "Every year is different. Every team is different, but the focus this team has every day and how they lock in at practice is really something to be proud of. When you play a tight game like that where you have to grit, claw, come back and figure out how to win through tiny bits of adversity, that's what we do in practice every day. I thought the guys did a great job of adjusting to the physicality and when we got the bonus I was surprised that we had made it there."
Caltech's ability to shoot the three made them a threat throughout the game's 40 minutes. Sophomore Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) broke out with 16 points and four three-pointers, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the second half. Junior Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook) also affected the game from deep with all nine of his points stemming from a 3-for-4 day from three. The sophomore also led the way on the glass with seven rebounds. Carter connected on two three's and freshman forward Riley O'Neil (Santa Rosa, Calif. / Montgomery) came off the bench to hit a couple three's of his own. Andrews, meanwhile, finished in double-figures for the third straight game, scoring 17 points while once again leading his side with seven assists. The senior, along with Barnes combined for six of the home team's 10 steals, all proving crucial to the final outcome.
"It felt really good to find a rhythm," Gee said. "The first two games I wasn't knocking them down with the efficiency that I like but I felt good and guys were finding me. We had really great ball movement with really great passes and I was just the last guy getting the open looks and knocking them down."
Eslinger and the Beavers will enjoy a two-week break before hosting Johnson & Wales University (Denver) on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.