Caltech ends 26-year conference skid

Updated: February 23, 2011, 10:30 AM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Caltech men's basketball team ended a 26-year conference losing streak Tuesday night after posting a 46-45 victory over Occidental in the team's regular-season finale on senior night.

It was the first victory for the Division III Beavers since beating the University of La Verne 48-47 on Jan. 23, 1985, a span of 310 games in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

"Tonight's win is a testament to the hard work each member of this team, the alumni and the supporters have put into this program," third-year coach Oliver Eslinger said in a statement released by the school. "I hope that everyone who has participated in Caltech men's basketball is able to celebrate a little tonight."

Ryan Elmquist led Caltech (5-20, 1-13) with 23 points and nine rebounds. It was Elmquist's free throw with 3 seconds left that was the difference in knocking off Occidental (12-13, 6-8).

Caltech is a world-renowned private research university known more for its accomplishments in science and engineering than jump shots and back cuts. Despite its small size -- the school enrolls approximately 950 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students and employs about 300 professorial faculty -- Caltech has produced 31 Nobel Prize winners.

Caltech finished the season 5-20, its best record in 15 years. The Beavers went 0-25 last season and hadn't won more than one game in any of their previous eight seasons -- but back in 2007, Caltech ended an NCAA-record 207-game losing streak with a victory over Bard College of New York.

The Beavers have a great sense of humor about their athletic struggles, but they still celebrated at the Braun Athletic Center after Occidental missed its desperation shot at the buzzer.

When Caltech won its last conference game more than 26 years ago, four-time NBA champion coach Gregg Popovich was running the bench at SCIAC rival Pomona-Pitzer.

Not everything is looking up athletically at Caltech: The women's basketball team finished its season 0-25, losing to Occidental 82-35 on Tuesday night.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.