PASADENA, Calif. (Nov. 28, 2014) – A third straight 20-point effort from sophomore Kate Lewis (San Antonio, Texas / Ronald Reagan) fueled the Caltech women's basketball team to a halftime lead before ultimately falling, 76-60, to UC Merced in the Caltech Occidental Fall Classic on Friday afternoon.
"Kate is making herself a standout player," Head Coach Sandra Marbut said. "She listens to instruction and is really working to add to her game. Combined with her natural talent, she is a player who can change what teams do against us."
UC Merced improves to 3-4 while Caltech drops to 0-4. The Beaversjust about matched the Bobcats in shooting but could not take advantage of the 17 more free throw opportunities they were afforded and trailed in both fastbreak (16-0) points and points in the paint (28-14).
"As much as I'm disappointed we couldn't hold our lead, I am equally excited about our progress," Marbut said. "We continue to improve each game, and while it isn't the outcome I wanted, we got a lot of opportunities to practice composure and, for the most part, were able to do what we intended. Take about five minutes out of that game and it becomes a toss-up; we just have to keep stepping up and get more reps at being in it so we can learn to close the deal."
The Bobcats took an early 8-2 lead three minutes into play, but the Beavers knotted things up at 10-10 just over four minutes later. Lewis fought her way to the line and hit the second of two free throws to put Caltech ahead, then finished a layup on the next possession to regain the lead at 13-12. The Beavers stayed in front for the remainder of the half, increasing the margin to as much as seven at 26-19 with 3:56 remaining. The Bobcats rattled off a 7-1 run over just one minute behind a fast break onslaught late in the half to pull within one point with just 21 seconds left before the break, but junior Esther Du (Walnut, Calif. / Troy) nailed a jumper with three seconds remaining to give Caltech some breathing room at 33-30 heading into halftime.
After hitting just 3-of-16 attempts from downtown in the first half, the Bobcats began to see their shots fall immediately coming out of the break as a trio of three-pointers carried them out to a 39-36 lead less than two minutes into play. By the 12:45 mark, UC Merced had exploded with an 18-5 run to take the first double-digit lead of the game at 48-38. A trey by Du on the following possession cut the deficit back to single digits at 48-41, but that was as close as Caltech would get. The Bobcats extended the lead to as much as 19 before another last-possession shot by junior Stephanie Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) trimmed the margin to the final 16.
Lewis netted 20 points and added six rebounds, four steals and two assists while Wong also reached double figures in scoring for the fourth time in as many games this year with 14 points despite playing just 21 minutes due to early foul trouble. Senior Bridget Connor (Albuquerque, N.M. / Albuquerque Acad.) chipped in with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds as Du finished with eight points (2-of-2 from beyond the arc), four rebounds and two assists in only 22 minutes and junior Kristin Anderson (Folsom, Calif. / St. Francis) contributed five points, six rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes.
"Michelle [Wong] and Esther deserve a lot of credit for their role in keeping the tempo together against a team who wanted to run us out of the gym," Marbut said. "Stephanie continues to do what she does for us. Even when opponents prevent her from getting into a groove, she finds ways to score. It was great to see Bridget get a bit of her touch back. She is a pure shooter, and many shooters allow slumps to get into their head, but Bridget just gets back into the gym and works."
Marbut and the Beavers will be back in action on Day Two of the Caltech-Oxy Classic tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 29 as they face the Tigers of East Texas Baptist University (2-1) at Occidental College. The game will be available online via live video stream and accompanying Live stats, accessible through the team's schedule page at GoCaltech.com.