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Caltech ends 26-year, 310-game league losing streak

Feb 23, 2011, 2:07 AM EDT

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Caltech’s no longer a loser.

The Division-III Beavers snapped a 310-game conference losing streak by beating Occidental in their season finale, 46-45. It was easily the longest such streak in college hoops.

Their last Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory before Tuesday was Jan. 23, 1985. That’s right, 26 years.

Ryan Elmquist scored the winning point, hitting one of two free throws with three seconds left. Occidental (12-12 overall, 6-7 in conference) missed a shot at the buzzer. As you’d expect, players and fans celebrated by rushing the court.

In 2007, Caltech ended a 207-game NCAA losing streak by beating Bard College of New York. The famed private research university has just 950 undergraduates and doesn’t give out athletic scholarships. But 31 alumni and faculty have won the Nobel Prize.

(For more on Caltech’s sporting woes, check out this December profile from the New York Times.)

“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. I hope that everyone who has participated in Caltech men’s basketball is able to celebrate a little bit tonight,” coach Oliver Eslinger said on the school’s web site. “We still have goals and aspirations that we want to accomplish as a program and this win is another step toward meeting these objectives.”

Caltech ended its season 5-20 overall, which was its best record in 15 years. It went 0-15 last season. The last time it had a winning season? 1954.

The hero, Elmquist, finished with 23 points, including 12 of 15 from the free-throw line. According to ESPN, he’ll work at Google as a computer software engineer after the season. And he may have just helped reverse a losing trend at the school.

“We know what it’s like to lose,” Eslinger told ESPN. “There’s the philosophy, ‘Oh, you can learn a lot from losing.’ I don’t want to learn anything more from losing. I want to start winning.”

(Hat tip to College Basketball Nation Blog)

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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