Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Caltech in Catalonia: Spain Basketball Highlights

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Caltech Completes Successful Campaign in Spain

(This release was posted on gocaltech.com on April 7, 2014)

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Caltech Men's Basketball Team returned from a successful journey to Spain, highlighted by three straight wins against club teams in Catalonia. The international tour, the first for a Caltech athletics program, spanned the Institute's spring break from March 20-29.

After arriving in Barcelona late on Friday evening, the Beavers enjoyed the weekend touring the stadium built for the 1992 Olympics, Castillo de Montjuich, the Torres vineyard, and the seaside town of Sitges.

"The atmosphere, the perspective, the company. Just all too much to even put into words," said Dr. Oliver Eslinger, Caltech's head coach.

On Monday, the team took to Montserrat, a majestic sacred mountain that affords splendid views of the Catalonian landscape. The "serrated mountain", home to the world renowned L'Escolania Choir, was certainly a highlight.

"The scenery was spectacular," said Bryan Joel. "The hike to the Black Madonna along the mountain was like something I've never seen in the States."
The fifteen players found themselves at home on Montserrat
By Monday night, it was time for Caltech's first game. Badalona-based Basquet Neus welcomed the Beavers to its gym with fans lining the street as the bus pulled in to park. The game itself opened erratically as Caltech tried to adjust to FIBA rules. With a 24-second shot clock, unaccustomed officiating, and different timeout regulations, the (jet-lagged) Beavers struggled to find a rhythm and found themselves down by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter. A valiant comeback highlighted by a Bryan Joel steal and 3-pointer got them to within 3 before ending the game down 68-64. However, a jubilant celebration with all of the hometown fans and players from Neus offset any sense of a scoreboard setback.

"I've never had someone ask me for my jersey before," said Joel in reference to the "fiesta" finale.

Hugs and handshakes, photographs, and autographs were all part of the post-game festivities.

"I really didn't expect it, but it was amazing", said Nasser Al-Rayes. "I've never experienced anything like it and I really felt like we won a national title or something. But hopefully it's foreshadowing."

A respite from games on Tuesday provided the opportunity for a full day, well spent in Barcelona. Everyone was able to walk the city, shop, and experience the European way. From the intricate Gaudi buildings to the Port Olimpic to eating Tapas to walking the Ramblas, it was a full day of discovery.

"My favorite thing was being able to explore the city and experience the different culture while interacting with others," said Kc Emezie.

The Castle of Hostalric was the scene of many a medieval battle
The next three nights featured three games, but Caltech maximized its time in Catalonia and continued its adventure to incredible sights. On Wednesday, the Beavers ventured to the medieval walled town of Hostalric and enjoyed an authentic and festive lunch in the town. From there, the team toured the botanical gardens in Lloret, built in the style of the Villa D'Este Roman gardens.

"We had a ton of awesome laughs," said Nick Buoniconti.

That night, Caltech took on its second opponent in Badalona, Basquet Circol, and it was a game that won't soon be forgotten. Played at the sight of the 1992 Dream Team's practices, a good sized crowd welcome Caltech. After Circol jumped out to a quick lead, the Beavers settled in and found their stride. Led by Al-Rayes' 27 points and 16 rebounds, Caltech claimed a small advantage heading into the second half before Bryan Joel's deep, shot clock beating trifecta helped seize the victory. The crowd was in a frenzy as the teams exchanged exciting plays before Caltech capped the win, 72-69. Joel scored 20 points and Luke Lango had 8 rebounds and 9 assists.

"It was epic," said Coach Eslinger.



Thursday featured a trip to Girona, a beautiful city with ancient Roman walls, rich in historical significance. Players walked and shopped, and simply enjoyed being in such an unbelievable place.

"I loved scaling those Gironian walls," said Lango.

In the evening, the Beavers travelled to Terrassa to take on Sferic Basquet, and they didn't disappoint. A strong first quarter featured 24 Caltech points, led by Lawrence Lee and Joel, and the Beavers maintained control much of the half. But Sferic stormed back and the game was close throughout the second stanza. The Beavers, behind the strong play of Ricky Galliani and Andrew Hogue, muscled their way to victory, 57-52.

"Their physicality really wore on me, but in the end, we were playing the same game with a round orangish thing that bounced on a court with lines," said Lango. "And it all worked out."

The team spent Friday in Tossa de Mar
Friday was the final full day of the tour and the Beavers spent the day in Tossa de Mar, a picturesque getaway town that features the last remaining fortified medieval town on the Catalan coast. The players hung out on the beach and dined on another delicious, three course lunch highlighted by popular spanish dishes like paella, cured meats, and croquettes.

Friday night, Caltech looked to extend its international winning streak to three games as the team took on Club Basquet Ripollet, the best and most experienced club team it would face. In a standing room only gym, the Beavers translated a spirited warm-up that featured a dazzling display of dunks into the first quarter. On the backs of Lee, Hogue, and Al-Rayes -- who took advantage of the goaltending allowance -- they sprinted out to a 10-point lead, forced an early home team timeout, and never looked back.

Caltech remained in complete control and received tremendous play from everyone, including an offensive onslaught by Galliani. After the Beavers' lead swelled to 25 in the third, Emezie's driving dunk to begin the fourth quarter brought the crowd to its feet and kept the margin at 18 points.

"I knew they made a defensive mistake because they started yelling in Spanish," said Emezie.

When Ripollet made one last charge, David LeBaron's nifty layup stunted any thought of an American letdown. The Californians claimed a 64-50 win. Every Beaver played in the game, the third straight victory for Caltech.



As the week wore on, Caltech adjusted quickly to the faster paced action and how the games were officiated.

"Being a long way from home, and unfamiliar with the territory, forces a group to unite," said Coach Eslinger. "The officials actually call traveling here if that pivot foot comes up before the ball hits the floor. That was an obvious distinction."

With four, 10-minute quarters, a soccer-based style of play, and the fact that only the head coach can call a timeout via the scorer's table, subtle differences add up to big changes in strategy.

"The competition was great because they played a unique style of basketball," said Buoniconti. "I learned by watching how fluid they played together."

On the week, Lee (13 ppg, 7 rpg) led the team in scoring and shot 53.4 percent from the field. Joel (12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2 spg) was 15 of 31 from 3-point range. Al-Rayes (11.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg) was one rebound shy of averaging a double-double.

"Even though I spent most of my life playing international basketball, after only a season of intense, competitive college ball, I was playing within the style I've been developing at Caltech," said Al-Rayes. "But basketball is basketball, it doesn't matter where you are, you just need to play."

High spirits after the third straight victory
Lango averaged 4.5 assists per game while Emezie (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) shot 54.9 percent from the floor and blocked 5 shots.

"The trip was a great bonding experience for the team as a whole," said Emezie. "It helped us build some momentum to carry into next season."

Hogue (6.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Galliani (6.3 ppg, 4 rpg) enjoyed the physical brand of basketball and played great all-around games.

"The best thing about the trip was being able to vacation and play competitive basketball at the same time," said Galliani. "It was a rare, special opportunity."

The Beavers, who out-rebounded every Catalan club, averaged 64.5 points per game and held opponents to 59.8.

"Throughout the trip we were able to get really close off the court," said Joel. "This was very valuable because most of the team is made up of freshmen."

As Caltech has no seniors on the squad, it will return every player in 2014-15.

"Nothing like getting to see the world with my (basketball) family," said Lee.


The international endeavor was made possible thanks to a great number of supporters. The men's basketball program sincerely appreciates all of the efforts and contributions.

For full recaps of all the games, go to caltechbasketballblog.com.

Los 'cerebritos' ya la saben meter by Sergio Vera (from SPORT Barcelona)

Interviews and Circol highlight segment from TVBadalona: http://tvbadalona.xiptv.cat/5-contra-5/capitol/la-minguella-ho-torna-a-fer 

For more highlights, go to facebook.com/caltechbasketball.

Follow Caltech Men's Basketball on twitter.com/CaltechHoops.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Balanced Attack Propels Caltech to Third Straight Win

Ripollet, Spain -- Playing in the final game of the 2014 International Tour, Caltech overpowered CB Ripollet to win its third straight contest in as many days, 64-50. Ripollet, who plays in the Federació Catalana de Basquetbol, was perhaps the strongest of the four opponents the Beavers faced during the unprecedented trip to Spain. The club, which was formed in 1908, boasts size and experience, but Caltech's confidence and versatility became too much for the home team to handle.

After an energetic warmup (dunking is allowed per FIBA rules), a pre-game ceremony featured introductions of all players, a presentation of gifts to Caltech's coaching staff, followed by the anthems of the United States and Catalonia. From there the friendly turned into a match that heavily favored the Beavers. With their swarming defense, they translated a number of stops into points, and forced Ripollet to call an early timeout, up 14-4.

Lawrence Lee scored 8 points in the first period and Caltech held Ripollet, a team that averages 73 points per match, to 7.

Caltech was flowing beautifully into the second period and gained a 20-point advantage thanks to brilliant play from Ricky Galliani, Andrew Hogue, and Lawrence Lee.

"We really set the tone early," said Andrew Hogue. "Everything was within the offense. We were patient but took every opportunity to be aggressive. It was a well balanced attack and the best I've seen."

Bryan Joel (9 points and 3 assists) continued his spectacular shooting with three 3-pointers, and Nasser Al-Rayes (10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots) dominated the paint.

The second half was no different as the Beavers were able to get every player into the rotation throughout the game. Darius Simmons, Matt Edwards, Rob Anderson, Nick Buoniconti, and Josh Sonola all contributed while Naveen Tadepalli provided some solid minutes at point guard.

When Kc Emezie brought the crowd to its feet with a driving two-hand dunk on the baseline, Caltech was up by 25, its largest lead of the game.

"I was pretty excited," said Emezie. "I knew they made a defensive mistake because they started yelling in Spanish."

Ripollet, a top team in its league and one up for promotion, responded with a 10-0 run, but the Beavers maintained control. David LeBaron (5 points) converted a tough drive with a high-arching shot off the glass and the Beavers kept the lead at double digits in the fourth period.

Caltech finished the game with a 47-31 edge on the glass, 19-7 on the offensive boards. Lee finished with 16 points and 8 boards. Galliani scored 12 and added 8 rebounds. Emezie had 11 points and Hogue 7. Luke Lango tallied 3 assists and 2 steals.

The Beavers completed the journey with a 3-1 record, having won three straight.

"Our confidence was high, in ourselves and in the system," said Bryan Joel. "Winning one gave us confidence to go to the next game. And we could fix things in the second half that we were doing wrong. We learned."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Caltech Takes the Tile in Terrassa, Wins Second in a Row

Terrassa, Spain -- Playing in its second game in as many days, and third game on the tour, Caltech beat Sferic Basquet 57-52 on Thursday night. It was certainly the most physical match of the week with bodies sprawling all over the tiled floor.

"We are playing all games under FIBA rules, so that's been an adjustment in itself," said Coach Eslinger. "But the officiating has been quite different game to game, and this one was more like one of our physically rough SCIAC games."

The Beavers brought their high octane offense from the night prior and scored 24 points in the first period. The inside-outside game was working well as Lawrence Lee and Bryan Joel combined for 17 points. Lee was dominant in the paint and Joel connected on his first three 3-point attempts. (The NBA line was used for this friendly). Caltech enjoyed a 10-point lead heading into the second, 24-14.

The game was flowing nicely for Caltech, and it seemed as if it would extend the lead. However, Sferic tightened up its defense in the second quarter and capitalized on eight Caltech turnovers to tie the game at 33 by halftime.

In the third period, Sferic grabbed its first lead of the contest, and the game went back and forth from there. But Andrew Hogue (10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals) made two free throws amidst a 10-0 Caltech run that gave the Beavers a lead it would never relinquish.

The fourth was an all out slugfest  that saw Caltech outscore the home team 10-9. Ricky Galliani's tough offensive rebound and put-back in traffic summed up the match. Sferic later cut the margin to two with under two minutes to play, but Joel fed a beautiful pass to Lee for a layup that gave Caltech a two possession lead. After a Sferic free throw made it a 3-point game, Hogue provided the final points with a bucket in the paint that sealed Caltech's second victory of the tour.

"That was probably the best team we've played the whole trip," said Galliani. "They were athletic and worked well together. It's a good club."

Caltech once again won the rebound war 43-38 and assisted on 14 of its 22 field goals. The Beavers also had 15 steals.

"We are moving the ball well and figuring out how to play defense against European basketball," added Galliani.

Lee led all scorers with 16 points. Joel added 12 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. Nasser Al-Rayes tallied 8 points and 8 rebounds while Luke Lango continued his great playmaking with 5 assists and 6 rebounds.

Caltech, now 2-1 during its journey, wraps up the week at CP Ripollet on Friday night.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Caltech Earns First International Win at Circol Catolic

Badalona, Spain -- Shaking off the sluggishness from Monday's game, Caltech bounced back in superb fashion as it beat Circol Catolic 72-69 in the same gym where the 1992 Dream Team held practices. Circol holds third place in the table while Neus, the opponent from Monday night, is 12th.

Circol, another Senior A Squad from Badalona, jumped out to early 9-point leads at 11-2 and 14-5. Caltech, led by the tandem of Bryan Joel and Nasser Al-Rayes, trimmed the deficit to 3 at the end of the first quarter, 19-16.

In the second period, the home team continued to put up points on the back of shooting guard Quim Forteza, who led Circol with 26 points. Caltech kept the margin close as Al-Rayes began to take over. He scored 10 in the second ten minutes and finished the half with 16 points and 8 rebounds.

Circol, which led 35-34 at the half, began the second half on a 6-0 run and scored on its first five possessions. However, the Beavers responded brilliantly and grabbed their first lead of the game on a steal and layup by Luke Lango with 2:15 left in the third. Al-Rayes kept up his torrid scoring with six more points and Joel hit two of his game-high six 3-pointers in the quarter.

The game went back and forth until the middle of the fourth period when Caltech took the lead for good on a Lawrence Lee (14 points and 6 boards) offensive rebound and put-back with six minutes remaining.

"We were much more in sync this game," said Lee. "We all felt much better."

While the Beavers never trailed the rest of the contest, they weren't able to extend the margin past four. Circol  kept it close thanks to Forteza (6 points in the period) and the masterful passing of point guard Pau Ruzafa. A Ruzafa lay-in cut the Caltech lead to 67-66 with 35 seconds to go.

With the shot clock winding down the ball ended up in Joel's hands and he was forced to take a 30-footer (~9 meters) -- that he buried to seemingly give Caltech complete control of the game. The 4-point lead with 15 seconds to play didn't last long.  After hitting five 3's in the first half, Circol responded with its first and only 3 of the second on the ensuing possession. Caltech's lead shrunk to 1 with six seconds to play. From there Luke Lango (4 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists) calmly sank two free throws to extend the lead to 3 with 6.9 seconds to play. Circol, who had taken care of the ball wonderfully all game (7 turnovers to Caltech's 16), stepped out of bounds trying to receive the inbounds pass, and all but sealed the Caltech win.

"We played solid team basketball," said Al-Rayes. "All night, I was getting good looks."

Al-Rayes finished the game with a game-high 27 points and 16 rebounds while Joel tallied 20 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists to propel the Beavers. The visitors won the boards for the second night in a row 50-41. Caltech, now 1-1 on the international tour, plays Thursday night against Sferic Basquet.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beavers Play Tight Opening Game in Badalona

Badalona, Spain -- The Caltech men's basketball team, playing in another country for the first time in history, entered the gymnasium in Badalona to an energized group of fans and a welcoming opponent. Basquet Neus, a club that plays in the Senior A League, was on a four-game winning streak and looking forward to the international exhibition game. Though both teams were ice cold in the first quarter, the action heated up in the second frame and carried into the next 20 minutes.

Despite hitting 12 3's in its last contest, Basquet Neus only hit one in the first half -- and just four in the game -- but still managed to grab a 28-25 lead at the half. Coming out of halftime the home squad went on a 21-9 run off of 7 Caltech turnovers to take a 15-point lead with 2 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. From there Caltech rallied to get back into the game thanks to Kc Emezie, who had a game-high 19 points 11 rebounds, and Andrew Hogue, who tallied 9 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, and 5 assists. Caltech was able to cut the deficit to two points twice, once at 53-51 and the other at 59-57. After cutting it to 2 for the second time, Basquet went on a 8-1 run to seemingly take control of the game with a little over a minute to play. Ricky Galliani (9 points, 3 rebounds) scored on the next possession and Bryan Joel (10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals) got a steal and hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 3 with under 30 seconds to play. Caltech was able to force a miss on Basquet's next turn but, unable to corral the miss, the home team maintained the ball. The Spanish team was able to put the game away at the free throw line and won 68-64.

Caltech was 12 of 15 from the foul line, thanks in large part to Nasser Al-Rayes going a perfect 8 for 8. Basquet Neus shot 24 free throws but only made 13 and had 14 turnovers. Caltech won the rebounding battle 45-43. A very friendly post game exchange led to a jubilant celebration as both teams mingled, took photos, and engaged in ultimate sportsmanship.

Basquet Neus extends its winning streak to a season long 5 games while Caltech plays again Wednesday night against Circol Catolic, another team in the same league.

Stay updated with the journey on facebook.com/caltechbasketball and @CaltechHoops.