PASADENA (Dec. 9. 2017) – A new narrative has emerged following the Caltech men's basketball team's first rematch of the 2017-18 season. Led by a perfect shooting day from senior David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood), the Beavers managed to down visiting University of California Santa Cruz, 74-65, and earned their first win of the season in a rematch from last week's clash at the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic in Redlands.
Kawashima shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and drained his only three-pointer of the night to finish the game with 16 points to go along with four rebounds and one steal. Saturday also marked the first time two freshmen found their way into the starting lineup this season and both delivered in spades. Freshman forward Spencer Schneider (Houston, Texas / Clearbrook), the team's leading scorer and rebounder earned his way into the starting lineup and did not disappoint with a team-best 18 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Marcus Gee (Santa Monica, Calif. / Santa Monica) also executed well with 13 points and converted on two of three triples.
"It's really good to get the first win because I feel really good for the freshmen," Eslinger said. "[Kawashima] has experienced a good amount of wins in his time, especially in the last two years. The sophomores had some experience last year but you really start to be concerned about the freshmen because you want them to know what it feels like to win at Caltech. I feel relieved too, in a way because we've been in some close ones. We've put in a lot of hard work and no matter who we've been playing we've seen big improvements."
The Beavers met the Banana Slugs this time last week in a closely contested affair that saw Santa Cruz come out on top by just three points. With the backing of a very loud Braun Gymnasium, the Beavers turned the tables on their foes from up north. Execution proved paramount as Caltech shot 55.3 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from the perimeter. They also worked around their size deficiences and outrebounded the Banana Slugs 36-33 and matched them shot-for-shot in the paint.
With added preparation time and the advantage of playing in Pasadena, Eslinger's team saw improved efficiency and now have a foundation to build on going forward.
"Last week we played No. 3 Wisconsin-Whitewater tough in the first half and then had to play this Santa Cruz team," Eslinger said. "It's not easy to go back-to-back like that, especially when you're driving out to Redlands two days in a row. It's good to know the preparation paid off and we were able to execute against a tough team this time around."
The Beavers received contributions from up and down the lineup. Sophomore Alec Andrews (Folsom, Calif. / Folsom) earned a tough 11 points, nine of which came in the second half. He also led the team with six assists and added two steals and one block. Fellow sophomore Bret Johnson (Carlsbad, Calif. / Santa Fe Christian) also helped the cause by knocking down two three-pointers to finish up with eight points. Trailing by two points heading into the second half, the Beavers made sure not to go away and eventually slapped the Slugs with a 20-3 run keyed by eight points from Gee, including both of his three-pointers, the first of which forced the visitors into a timeout. Nine team three's to Santa Cruz' four more than made up for the scoring differential.
As time melted away, Santa Cruz showcased its resiliency but eventually fell to Caltech in a runback of two evenly matched teams.
"We strung together a bunch of defensive stops and countered with explosive offense," Eslinger said. "That's really fun and I was glad the guys could feel what that is. We talk about it a lot but that's how we want to play: get stops and counter with great offense."
Eslinger and the Beavers will travel to Colorado Springs for their next game, where they will meet Colorado College, the team Caltech claimed its first win against in 2016-17. With some momentum behind them, Eslinger and his young group welcome the challenge of winning a second straight game on the road.
"Colorado College is really good this year," Eslinger said. "It'll be exciting to see how we can prepare for this one and respond to a big trip like this but I know the guys felt good today having finished finals yesterday. It's a big week for us."