Photo: Noelle Davis
PASADENA (Feb. 2, 2019) – The Caltech men's basketball team rode an offensive wave back into the win column on Saturday, outscoring Whittier College, 92-87, for its first win in over two weeks.
Saturday marked the first time this year that Caltech fell short in the turnover battle but came out on top regardless. The turnover differential made offensive execution even more paramount than usual for the Beavers and the home team responded by shooting nearly 50-percent from the field and 32-percent from deep. The visiting Poets proved to be equally as efficient, though Caltech ultimately won the game at the free throw line, shooting a collective 20-for-22 for the best team free throw percentage in recent memory.
After going into the half trailing the Poets by seven points, the Beavers fought through the visitors' full-court press and finally took the lead with 11:30 left in regulation. A standout performance from sophomore forward Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook) put the home team in position to win, scoring 24 points (the number on his jersey, no less) on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Meanwhile, junior guard Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) continued his recent stretch of great passing games with seven assists and eight rebounds, giving him 28 assists over the last three games. When the game came down to crunch time, however, Schneider, Andrews and the Beavers managed to solve the Poets defensively and hold on for the win following a few key offensive possessions.
"We knew they were going to be coming hard, pressing us the whole game," Andrews said. "It was just about staying calm and poised, then getting the ball into the right people's hands and out-executing them down the stretch. We got some good looks at the end and I felt we played to win rather than not-to-lose."
In addition to being a team that is pragmatic and careful with the basketball, Caltech is also one of the top-40 teams in the nation in terms of fewest fouls per game. In spite of this, the second of Saturday's game took on a physical tone that the host Beavers ultimately embraced in all areas. While Schneider and Andrews led Caltech on the glass, junior forward Aaron Ayres (Tucson, Ariz. / Catalina Foothills) played a prominent role down the stretch and offered six points, three rebounds, and four assists, in addition to a big rejection that allowed the Beavers to set the physical tone despite its reputation of finesse basketball. Caltech outrebounded Whittier, 38-29, and came up with 12 offensive boards.
"Physicality has been a big point of emphasis for us," Ayres said. "There have been games in the past where we let teams off the hook physically and get beat on the boards but I think in the second half we picked it up today. We fought for every rebound and it all worked out in the end."
No player had a more efficient night than sophomore guard Gokul Srinivasaragavan (San Ramon, Calif. / Dougherty Valley). The sixth-man scored 15 points in 11 minutes and made all but one of his seven shots while classmate Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) keyed Caltech's efficiency from the foul line with a perfect 9-for-9 line en route to 19 points while carrying the free throw burden down the stretch. Not to be outdone, freshman Noah Barnes (Springfield, Va. / Jefferson) poured in 20 points to go with four rebounds and four assists. The Beavers' ability to share the ball ultimately allowed for some breakout individual performances, but the team's eagerness to come together in the crucial moments ultimately put them over the top.
"This group is an unbelievable group that really knows how to stick together," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "They had a good week of practice and are always working so diligently and when you're doing all the little things to improve you deserve to feel victorious. It's just good to have that winning feeling again."
Eslinger and the Beavers will look to make it two-in-a-row when they host Chapman University on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in hopes of completing their first conference sweep of the season.