PASADENA, CA – Caltech's rally from a double-digit second half deficit fell just short as Occidental held on for an 80-74 win on Wednesday evening in the men's basketball SCIAC opener for both teams.
An intense and closely played first half went Occidental's way during a vital stretch at the end of the first half. After 11 lead changes and four ties, the Tigers finished the last 3:42 of the half by outscoring Caltech 17-4 as the visitors took a 46-32 lead at intermission.
Down 54-36 with 16:57 left in the game, Caltech began to chip away at the Tigers lead. With 10:48 left Caltech got within single digit at 62-53 after a Kc Emezie lay-in. Over the next three minutes Occidental kept their lead between 10 to 12 points before the home team made a final charge.
After a Juwan Rice lay-up with 7:22 remaining gave Occidental a 71-61 edge the Beavers dwindled their deficit down. Caltech held the Tigers to just one field goal the rest of the game to aid in the rally. Bryan Joel nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to bring Caltech within one possession of the lead. With the score 77-74 in favor the Tigers with 1:15 remaining after Joel's three-pointer, Caltech forced Spencer Levy into a turnover with 46 ticks remaining.
On the Beavers next possession, they worked the ball down low but a Lawrence Lee shot didn't find the bottom of the net as Occidental gained possession. Kory Hamane hit one of two shots from the charity after the Beavers were forced to foul with 27 seconds left. Caltech had two shots in the closing seconds that didn't fall but Luke Lango was fouled with six second left. Unfortunately for the Beavers he couldn't convert from the charity stripe and Occidental sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
Rebounding played a huge role in the outcome as Occidental posted a plus-19 edge on the boards which helped them translate into a 20-8 edge in second change scoring.
Caltech placed a season high four players in double figures led by Lee's 16-point evening. The first-year also grabbed a game high 10 rebounds in recording his first double-double. Emezie contributed 14 points while Bryan Joe (11) and David Le Baron (10) rounded out the double digit scorers.
Kris Montoya, who came into the game as the conference's leading scorer, recorded a game high 21 points in 36 minutes to pace the Occidental offense.