PASADENA (Jan. 9, 2019) – A pair of late three-pointers from sophomores Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook) and Gokul Srinivasaragavan (San Ramon, Calif. / Dougherty Valley) gave the Caltech men's basketball team its first SCIAC win of the season over the University of La Verne on Wednesday evening.
The Beavers trailed the Leopards by five points with just 80 seconds remaining in regulation. In need of some quick baskets, Caltech turned to Srinivasaragavan to create his own shot. The sophomore put a great move on his defender and connected on a three-pointer from near the top-of-the-key to cut the deficit to two. The Beavers then picked up one of its biggest stops of the season when junior Ross Carter (Sudbury, Mass. / The Rivers School) got his third and final block of the game to put the home team back on offense. Eight seconds later, Schneider drilled the game-winning shot off a great pass from freshman Noah Barnes (Springfield, Va. / Jefferson), prompting the Caltech defense to come up strong one more time in a situation very familiar to this year's team.
"My shot was in transition," Schneider said. "Both sides were kind of scrambling and with Noah having the great game tonight gravity shifted toward him and I was able to hit the shot. This is why we practice and play the games and I think the pressure moments are the most fun part about this."
The familiarity with the end game situation ultimately put the Beavers over the top against a talented, though inexperienced La Verne squad. So far, all of Caltech's wins have come by four points or less and the Beavers remain unbeaten in games decided by three points or less. The end-game stop came naturally, almost like clockwork to Barnes and the Beavers, with the freshman heading up the home team's scoring with 17 points to go with three rebounds and three assists. Sophomore guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) seconded Barnes with 15 points and a standout defensive game with six rebounds and four steals. Srinivasaragavan scored seven points off the bench and has become as seasoned to the end-game moment as any of his teammates with a trio of crucial end-game baskets under his belt a year-and-a-half into his Division III career.
"I was on the left wing and Ross set a great pick that led to me getting open," Srinivasaragavan said. "I practice that shot all the time and happened to make it this time. I also want to thank Coach for playing me and knowing he has confidence in me only instills more confidence in me too."
While the team has been more accustomed to high-scoring affairs, the Beavers tweaked their offensive approach after going into the locker room with a first-half deficit, becoming more selective and opting for high-percentage plays and leaning on its defense to carry them. Wednesday marked Caltech's lowest-scoring win of the season, and the Beavers managed to find a way to win despite being outshot and outrebounded. Careful attention to detail with the basketball contributed to the win, as the Beavers committed just nine turnovers to the Leopards' 16. Just as importantly, Caltech made its SCIAC foe pay with 15 points off turnovers, good for more than one-quarter of its winning point total.
Caltech's repeated experiences with late-game situations have quickly given a young team an added experience edge against similar teams and could continue to aid them throughout the rest of its conference schedule.
"What the team is learning is that by sticking together good things can happen," Eslinger said. "Each game may not always go how we think it will, but if we keep doing the right stuff daily then good things will happen. It can be something as simple as a subtle action at a particular time. Everything matters to the whole."
Eslinger and the Beavers will hit the road on Saturday, Jan. 12 when they will look to get a winning streak going at Whittier College.