Photo: Shu Fay Ung
PASADENA (Nov. 29, 2019) – The Caltech women's basketball team had itself a nice weekend at the Caltech-Oxy Thanksgiving Classic, spliting games with Bard College and Bethesda University while several players achieved personal milestones along the way.
Bard 57, Caltech 55
Senior guard Grace Peng (San Ramon, Calif. / California) reached the 1,000-point threshold with a late surge against Bard that lifted the Beavers back into contention for the win. Peng, who finished the game with 19 points, picked off a Raptors inbound and drew the foul on a tough layup that ultimately dropped through the net. With the successful free throw, Caltech cut the Bard lead to three with half a quarter to play. Peng is the fastest Caltech women's player to 1,000 points since Stephanie Wong '16, the program scoring leader.
"We are extremely proud of Grace and all that she has accomplished thus far," Head Coach Bridgette Reyes said. "She is an amazing scholar athlete and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to coach her every day."
Peng came through big again for the Beavers just a few minutes later. The senior drew another and-one with just over 90 seconds to go in regulation, and the successful free throw helped cut the deficit to one. Peng later tied the game with yet another free throw at 55 seconds, and a strong defensive presence from all involved helped the Beavers get the ball back. The seventh block of the game from freshman forward Sahana Saikumar (Arcadia, Calif. / Arcadia) ultimately gave Caltech the ball back with a chance to win the game. The freshman's seven rejections make her the fifth player in program history to achieve the feat, most recently reached by Elizabeth Eiden '19 against Occidental College in 2018. Offensively, Saikumar proved to be a matchup problem for the Raptors, picking up 27 points to go with 14 rebounds over the full 40 minutes. With just seconds to go in regulation, Saikumar looked to have her record-setting eighth block but was called for a tough foul that ultimately sent Bard to the line for the win.
In additional to crossing 1,000 points on her career, Peng contributed perhaps her best all-around line of the season with an additional eight rebounds, six steals and four assists.
"It's cool to be able to reach this accomplishment," Peng said, "Especially joining some people I was lucky enough to play with and who led the way for me. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing what this team can do."
Caltech 64, Bethesda 35
The Beavers picked up their first win of the season in impressive fashion over Bethesda in the tournament's Saturday leg hosted by Occidental. This time, the Beavers got out to a dominate start and never looked back. Thanks to 14 first-half points from Peng, the Beavers jumped on the Flames with a score of 28-11 over the first 20 minutes while limiting the Anaheim-based team to just two scorers over that stretch. Caltech went on to outscore Bethesda in every quarter thereafter, resulting in a dominant 64-35 victory.
Saikumar led Caltech with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go with 14 rebounds, her second double-double of the weekend. The rookie's points per game and rebounds per game thus far into the season have her on pace to set single-season marks in each category. Peng, meanwhile had another solid line with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Senior forward Alexa Lauinger (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon) had a career-best day on the glass with 13 rebounds to go with seven points, and freshman guard Faith Pinney (Spokane, Wash. / Gonzaga Preparatory School) helped set the table for Caltech's dynamic scoring tandem with seven assists. Also of note, junior Lauren Suezaki (San Ramon, Calif. / California) made her 2019-20 debut on Friday afternoon, and continued to give the Beavers a newfound energy off the bench throughout the weekend.
Reyes and the Beavers will next play co-tournament host and SCIAC foe Occidental on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in Pasadena. The Tigers picked up wins over the Flames on Friday and Raptors on Saturday.