LOS ANGELES—All spring and summer it burned. The Occidental men's basketball team couldn't escape the dirt that followed them: they were the team that lost to Caltech, breaking the Beavers' 310 game losing streak.
To say their pride was wounded would be an understatement.
But tonight, with a chip on their shoulders, the Tigers (7-6, 2-0) finally got the chance they'd been waiting for to even things up, beating Caltech (5-8, 0-2) 81-55 in a heated game at Rush Gymnasium.
"We weathered the storm," Occidental coach Brian Newhall said. "There was a lot of pent-up emotion that came streaming out tonight. We're happy about this win but the most important thing is that we've started league play 2-0."
Within the opening six minutes of the game, the Tigers raced out to a 14 point lead, holding the Beavers to just 2 points. An energized man-to-man defense led by guard Sam Stapleton (Los Angeles) forced eight first half Caltech turnovers.
Oxy's defense continued to suffocate Caltech, as the Tigers ended up winning the rebounding battle 52-23.
Equally in sync on offense, Oxy would lead by as many as 18 points in the first half, as they looked inside to exploit the smaller Beavers in the paint.
6-foot-6 Kris Montoya (Portland, OR) couldn't be stopped in the post, coming off the bench to score 16 of his 19 points in the first half. 6-foot-4 Deshun McCoy (Los Angeles) also found a route to the basket, finishing with 19 points. 6-foot-8 Conrad Liebowitz (Santa Monica) had a double-double with 12 points and 13 boards. Three point threat Ryan Chong added 12 points, and Jack Hanley chipped in with 11.
Though Caltech managed to cut the lead as close as 11 points in the first half, led by Michael Edwards' 18 points and Andrew Hogue's 14 points, the Beavers were never able to make a lasting run to get back in the game.
To their credit, however, Caltech forced Oxy to commit a game-high 17 turnovers and many petty fouls.
Both teams played hard in a highly physical atmosphere.
"It felt like a football game out there," Newhall said. "Everyone was getting tackled."
Hard fouls were exchanged, bodies flew, and shirtless screaming Caltech fans with orange paint drawn on them were heard all night.
An important lesson from last year's game, however, still remains in the back of the Tigers' minds.
"We now know we can't act like things are just going to come to us," Montoya said. "We have to come and play hard every single night and prove ourselves."
The Tigers certainly did tonight, and look to again this Saturday against Whittier at 7 p.m. at home.