Photo by Michael Wong
PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2015) – Junior Stephanie Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) took the game on her shoulders to lead the Caltech women's basketball team to a second straight SCIAC win in a 72-61 victory over Occidental College while becoming the fastest in program history to record 1,000 career points on Saturday night.
"Tonight was a very collective effort," Head Coach Sandra Marbut said. "Our strength was in working together. We talked about building on the momentum from Wednesday and really taking control of the game. We were able to do that and push ahead."
The win marked the first back-to-back SCIAC victories for the Beavers since 2007-08, making for quite the sendoff for senior Bridget Connor (Albuquerque, N.M. / Abuquerque Acad.) in her final game in Pasadena, and was the first in program history over the Tigers.
"I have never seen a player work as hard and put in as much time as Bridget," Marbut said. "Nothing makes me happier than to give her a win on Senior Night and to see the team come together to make it happen. She deserves it!"
Wong's seven made three-pointers also set a program single-game record, which she had already tied twice previously with six.
"Stephanie had a major shooting night – she came up big and shot the ball with amazing confidence," Marbut said. "She made a few that were just flat-out gold. She came ready to play, and Oxy had no one who could stop her. We were so wrapped up in getting the win, we didn't realize she had already reached the milestone – 1,000 points is a big deal in our program; she is only the second player to reach that. I couldn't be happier for her, I knew it was coming from the day she stepped on campus and to have it happen the same night as a win is special."
Caltech outshot Oxy 48-34 percent from the field, a whopping 56-29 percent beyond the arc – thanks almost entirely to Wong – and 74-38 percent from the free throw line to overcome deficits in rebounding (-6), turnovers (-1) and second-chance points (11-0). The Beavers improve to 2-22 overall and 2-13 in the SCIAC while Oxy drops to 4-20 (2-13).
Oxy went ahead to start the game as Caltech could not hit a basket over the opening four minutes, but sophomore Michelle Wong (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) dished out assists to her elder sister and junior Esther Du (Walnut, Calif. / Troy) for back-to-back three-pointers to make it a two-point game at 10-8 with 15:22 on the clock. Another three from Stephanie Wong would bring the Beavers within one at 12-11, and the wing soon hit two more consecutive treys to key a 12-2 run that saw Caltech surge ahead to a 27-23 lead with 6:59 left in the half. After nearly four full scoreless minutes, Wong found Connor for a mid-range jumper to make it 29-25 at the 3:02 mark.
Consecutive scores put Oxy back on top briefly, but Du nailed another three in the final minute to give Caltech a 32-30 edge heading into halftime.
Caltech hung onto the lead for the first four minutes of the second half, but Oxy fought back to go up 40-38 at the 14:49 mark. Sophomore Kate Lewis (San Antonio, Texas / Ronald Reagan) leveled the score at 40-40 and made a block at the other end, but the Tigers extended the margin to five at 47-42 with 11:38 remaining.
Wong sent her team ahead with yet another three at 49-47 with 9:56 on the clock and the hosts never surrendered the lead, with Wong pouring in 13 points over four-and-a-half minutes to carry her team out to a 63-55 lead with just 5:20 left to play. Oxy never came closer than six points down the stretch as Caltech cruised to the 72-61 win.
"It was nice to go into the final minute and see we had the advantage enough to force Oxy to have to make a move," Marbut said. "They tried, but we had found a huge reserve of confidence."
Wong recorded the first 30-point game of her career, finishing with 31 on a ridiculous 7-of-12 from beyond the arc and 9-of-16 from the field while adding a team-high eight rebounds, three steals and two assists. Lewis chipped in 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks while junior Kristin Anderson (Folsom, Calif. / St. Francis) contributed six points, seven rebounds and two assists in just 24 minutes off the bench. Michelle Wong dished out a team-high three assists and Du was a perfect 2-for-2 shooting, both from long range.
Marbut and the Beavers will look to continue the streak as they close out the season on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Chapman University (12-12, 9-6).