PASADENA (Dec. 15, 2018) – The Caltech men's basketball team executed its offense at a high level on Saturday afternoon, edging out the University of California Santa Cruz, 66-63.
Through the season's first five games, all three of the Beavers' wins have come by three points or fewer. This time, Caltech got the offense going early, scoring 40 first-half points and embarking on a 29-16 run over the final 10 minutes of the half while knocking down nine three-pointers. Junior forward Ross Carter's (Sudbury, Mass. / The Rivers School) passing helped create open looks for his teammates, as all four of his assists came in the first half with his final assist resulting in an easy layup for sophomore forward Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook). Schneider scored from all over the floor and finished the game with 16 points and four assists of his own. Sophomore guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) led the Beavers with 21 points for the highest individual scoring effort of the season for Caltech. Gee's big day was leveraged by five three-pointers, three of which came in the second half. Carter himself knocked down a three-pointer as one of seven different players to connect from deep.
"Coach says it every single day that every one of us is a threat from the three-point line," Carter said. "We do a good job of finding guys when everyone is looking for their shots. It might to the outside observer seem like today was exceptional but that's just us doing what we do every day in practice. I have the utmost confidence that every time I kick the ball out guys are going to be in the right spot and get a great shot off. I don't have to do much work on it because I know everyone is always moving and trying to work as a unit."
Keeping with the common theme of Caltech's prior two wins, drama ensued over the game's final minute. Leading by three points on the game's final possession, junior Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) forced a loose ball as the clock ticked down to the final seconds with the referee calling for a jump ball. Following a group consultation, the officials opted to give the Banana Slugs the ball back with .8 seconds to go in regulation. The visitors got the ball to their leading scorer with what initially appeared to be a good look before Schneider closed on him, got a piece of the ball for his second of two blocks and secured the win for the home team.
"It was a pretty intense moment," Schneider said. "Everyone was locked in and I think as we've seen throughout the five games we've played this season when it gets down to it, we're all locked in and ready to finish. I think we've done that again here. We stuck to our principles like we always do and were able to get the win."
The Beavers are undefeated when they win the turnover battle and score at least 60 points and met those standards today, turning the ball over just nine times while forcing the Banana Slugs into 16 mistakes. The 19:9 assist-to-turnover ratio is also a high mark on the season. UC Santa Cruz is now 3-3 against SCIAC teams this year and came into the game with wins over California Lutheran University and the University of La Verne. Saturday's win perhaps offers the Beavers a hint of clarity as to where they might stand among the rest of the conference five games into the season, though the schedule ahead will ultimately be the true determinant when all is said and done.
"This is a day-to-day process," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "Moment-to-moment, we're just trying to get a little bit better every day. We learn a lot in these close games and I think the team does a really good job of processing it all and it's a great group. They are teachable, coachable and there's a great buy-in. It's easier to manage and way easier to coach when you have a whole group like that. It's not about the wins and as far as who the opponent is, we don't look at it like that. It's just on to the next day."
Eslinger and the Beavers (3-2) will have a quick turnaround when they host Illinois' Principia College (1-8) on Monday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.