PASADENA, Calif. (Nov. 15, 2014) – Senior Andrew Hogue (Arroyo Grande, Calif. / Arroyo Grande) and junior Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) delivered monstrous performances in the first annual "110 Freeway Rivalry" as the Caltech men's basketball team went toe-to-toe with Occidental College in front of a raucous capacity crowd to open the season in the Braun Gymnasium on Saturday night.
"That's the kind of atmosphere that is exhilarating to coach, play and be a fan in," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "We're all very appreciative of our department and students for making it happen, and hopefully we can pack Braun Gym like that for every game."
The Tigers pulled away late in the second half to claim a 90-81 victory and begin the season 1-0, while the Beavers start out 0-1.
Emezie drained a career-high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting while adding seven rebounds and four assists. Hogue also set a new career mark with 16 rebounds and completed the double-double with 17 points while chipping in a team-high five assists and two steals.
"This was a great college basketball game," Eslinger said. "Both teams made plays throughout, and I was proud of our preparation and team effort to the end."
Caltech rode the deafening cheers of the crowd to a quick 11-4 start less than three minutes into the game as Hogue scored all 11 of the Beavers' points via a trio of three-pointers and a coast-to-coast layup.
Occidental scored 10 unanswered points to take a 14-11 lead, but a pair of layups by sophomore Nick Buoniconti (Orlando, Fla. / Lake Highland Prep) gave the Beavers a one-point edge with 14:19 on the clock. The Tigers' fast breaking style manufactured another eight straight points for a 22-18 lead, but an Emezie trey and layup on consecutive possessions handed Caltech another one-point margin.
Four consecutive threes saw Occidental climb to an 11-point lead, but a huge dunk on the fast break by sophomore Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) silenced the Tigers fans on the far side of the stands. Oxy would extend the margin to as much as 14 at 47-33 with 2:23 to play in the half, but Caltech reclaimed the momentum heading into halftime, locking down on defense to keep the Tigers scoreless while notching five more points before the break.
Oxy scored the first six points of the second half to take a game-high 15-point lead, but Caltech responded quickly behind a three-point play by sophomore Luke Lango (San Diego, Calif. / Pacific Ridge School) to make it 53-43 at the 16:52 mark. The Beavers soon cut the deficit back to single digits at 58-52 with just under 13 minutes left in the game and made their move five minutes later as Lango and sophomore David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) hit back-to-back jumpers to pull within five points at 63-58.
The Tigers briefly regained some breathing room, but Emezie had an answer as he brought the Beavers within four at 69-65 with just a tick under six minutes left to play. The junior swingman stepped up his game to score an incredible 14 points over the final seven minutes of the contest, but Oxy rained down a barrage of threes to outdistance Caltech in the final minutes and claim the first of three matchups between the rivals this season.
Lango also reached double figures in scoring with 10 points, while sophomore Lawrence Lee (Hong Kong / Hong Kong International School) made a team-high three steals. Freshman Ty Ochse (Tucson, Ariz. / Canyon Del Oro) also impressed in just eight minutes off the bench in his collegiate debut, sinking both his shots for four points and adding a rebound and steal.
"We will be using this as a springboard going forward in what should be a great season," Eslinger said. "There was plenty to build on tonight."
Eslinger and the Beavers will regroup for their trip to Oregon, where they will play a trio of games in as many days, beginning Friday, Nov. 21 at George Fox University (1-0). The game will be available online via Live stats and video broadcast, both which can be accessed through the team's schedule page at GoCaltech.com.