Occidental falls to CalTech in ‘110 Rivalry’ game

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Courtesy of Toby Gassner.

The Occidental men’s basketball team lost to their first SCIAC opponent of the 2021 season Nov. 9, falling to the CalTech Beavers 63-61. The “110 Rivalry,” named for the California-110 Interstate that both schools are located near, has been historically dominated by Occidental. The CalTech men’s basketball team endured a losing streak from 1985–2011, losing a record 310 games in a row against conference opponents. They broke that streak with a win against Occidental in 2011 and have defeated the Tigers eight times since then, including their victory Tuesday night.

The Tigers jumped to a nine-point lead early in the first half. Occidental’s fast-paced offense and its heavy emphasis on ball movement gave CalTech’s defense trouble throughout much of the first half, but a 7-minute scoreless period allowed the Beavers to take a 30-25 lead.

CalTech found success behind the three-point line against the Tigers, making 11 of 26 three-pointers. Marcus Gee (senior) led the Beavers in scoring, shooting 4 of 9 from three and finishing with a total of 18 points.

Following the scoreless period to close out the first half, Occidental quickly took the lead in the second half. According to men’s basketball assistant coach Mike Wells, the team returned to the floor with renewed energy.

“I don’t think there was any message that was different from the first, I think we just played with more energy and executed better,” Wells said.

Occidental shot far more three-pointers in the second half, eventually matching CalTech’s total of 26 three-pointers attempted for the night. Aiden Williams (sophomore) made four three-pointers, helping Occidental regain the lead in the second half. Isaiah Jeannot (sophomore) and Jack Amsler (junior) also played significant roles for the Tigers’ offense in the second half, each making a three-pointer to extend the Tigers’ lead in that span.

Courtesy of Toby Gassner.

The Tigers remained within one score of CalTech throughout the entirety of the second half, which featured six ties and four lead changes. The Beavers took the lead after Gee knocked down all three of his free throws following a shooting foul late in the fourth quarter.

Captain Kyle Dosa (senior) forced a turnover in Occidental’s full-court press, giving the Tigers possession with 31 seconds left. This led to a three-pointer from Sydney Shipp (junior) with just over two seconds left in the game, bringing Occidental to within one point of CalTech. Jeb Brysacz (first year) of CalTech was fouled immediately following an inbound pass, and he knocked down the first of two free throws to extend the Beavers’ lead. Brysacz missed the second free throw but it was too late for the Tigers to retake the lead.

Wells said there were many strong moments in the game but also recognized there are areas where the team can improve.

“It’s always good to play a competitive opponent. Every game is like a quiz or a test. Every game gives you information about who you are,” Wells said. “Sometimes, when you looked out there, we were really good, but the best teams do it consistently. It’s not the flashy plays, it’s what you do over the course of an entire game consistently that impacts winning and losing.”

Jacob Hamermesh (freshman) said the team struggled with rebounding and failed to make some hustle plays that are necessary to win.

“I think we need to rebound the ball better. CalTech came up with a lot more rebounds than we did,” Hamermesh said. “We are a small team so we have to win the 50-50 balls and come up with rebounds in order to compete.”

Courtesy of Toby Gassner.

While Dosa struggled to score against CalTech, he impacted the game elsewhere, totaling eight assists, eight rebounds and one steal. Dosa said there are a number of areas where the team can improve but he feels optimistic about the future.

“I thought we played hard against a good CalTech team,” Dosa said. “I think we could have done a better job on offense at moving more and not being so stagnant, and also we had some defensive mistakes on rotations and leaving their best shooter open.”

Though the team was disappointed by the loss, Wells said the team will use it as a learning experience.

“It’s a good barometer for us,” Wells said. “We don’t have that many returners, so it was good to see where we stack up against a very good SCIAC team. I thought we played hard.”