CLAREMONT, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2015) – Junior Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) poured in 21 points to lead the Caltech men's basketball team in a nail-biter at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Saturday evening.
After an early Beavers lead, the Sagehens surged ahead and narrowly hung on for the 62-57 victory in their home gym, improving to 9-13 overall and 7-6 in the SCIAC while the Beavers dip to 3-19 (2-11). Pomona-Pitzer overcame an eight-point difference at the free throw line, thanks in part to a 55-percent field goal rate, while Caltech won both the rebound (+2) and turnover (+1) battles and mustered seven more shots than the Sagehens.
"We won the boards and got off more shots against what is a great Pomona-Pitzer team at full strength and making a run for the top four now that they're all healthy," Head Coach Doc Eslinger said. "We had terrific free throw shooting and won the turnover battle for the second game in a row. I was very pleased with our execution and fight back."
Caltech held the upper hand in a defensive battle early on, leading 7-2 at the 14:08 mark. Pomona-Pitzer came back to lead 9-8 with 8:54 left in the half, but a pair of Emezie free throws and back-to-back treys from senior Bryan Joel (Bethesda, Md. / Walt Whitman) put Caltech back up 16-12 with 6:12 on the clock.
Sagehens star Kyle McAndrews notched the next five points to put his team ahead by one, but Joel hit another two consecutive three-pointers in response to keep the Beavers on top. A third straight trey for Pomona-Pitzer send the hosts ahead, however, and the Sagehens held a one-point lead ta halftime, 27-26.
The offensive explosion did not let up as the second half began, with Pomona-Pitzer hitting two quick layups and McAndrews scoring two more while Emezie and sophomore Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) drilled a three apiece to keep it close. The Sagehens would finally distance themselves midway through the half to lead by a high of nine points at 12:34, but the Beavers steadily clawed back within one basket by the five-minute mark at 53-50.
Emezie and sophomore David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) fueled the Beavers rally, while senior Andrew Hogue (Arroyo Grande, Calif. / Arroyo Grande) joined the party with the crucial free throws to pull within three, then came up with a steal and found Emezie, who drew the foul and hit both free throws to make it a one-point game.
"Joel was firing away and they all looked good," Eslinger said. "Kc and Hogue were playing terrific ball., and LeBaron was awesome on the boards and with his intensity. Nick [Buoniconti] was huge for us today too – his energy and defense powered us to come back from the deficit."
Emezie traded layups with Pomona-Pitzer and, after a McAndrews layup threatened to distance the Sagehens in the final minutes, Hogue nailed the game-tying three-pointer at 57-57 with 2:44 remaining. Pomona-Pitzer came up with a big three on a second-chance opportunity at the 1:06 mark and Caltech's looks clanked off the iron to hand the hosts the win, 62-57.
Emezie's 21 point marked his fourth 20-point outing of the season while Joel and Hogue added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Joel also dished out a team-high four assists, made a season-high five steals and hit multiple three-pointers for the fifth straight game.
Eslinger and the Beavers will host the University of La Verne (9-13, 5-8) on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.