Wheaton Hands No. 8 MIT Its First Division III Loss of the Season, 60-57
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Wheaton College put on an impressive shooting display to hand No. 8 MIT its first conference defeat and first loss against a Division III opponent in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Rockwell Cage. Brendan Degnan scored eight straight in the final two minutes, including back-to-back three-pointers to put Wheaton on top, 55-53, a lead it would not relinquish en route to the 60-57 win. The Lyons connected on 48.8% of their shots, including 10 of 19 from three-point range, to improve to 6-10 (2-4 NEWMAC) on the season. The Engineers had won their first 16 games in Division III play, with their only loss coming to Harvard University; but now see their record fall to 16-2 and 4-1 in the NEWMAC.
Degnan's shooting display came on the heels of a 9-0 MIT run that put the Cardinal and Gray up, 53-49, with 4:51 to go. Billy Bender's three-ball at the 5:54 mark gave Tech its first lead since the score was 4-3. Mitchell Kates added six points during the spurt. The teams would then go nearly three minutes without scoring before Degnan's first trifecta cut the gap to one. Kates was unable to connect on a tough lay-up at the other end and MIT could not secure the loose ball rebound, giving the ball back to Wheaton. Degnan would then drain another clutch shot to put the Lyons up two. After another Kates miss, Anthony Coppola found Degnan under the basket to increase the lead to four.
Kates would score on consecutive drives to the basket, sandwiched around a pair of Jaxon Leo free-throws. Trailing by two with 12 seconds to go, MIT sent Ben Stehle to the line where he converted one of two, giving the Engineers a chance to tie. Bender had a shot from the top of the key but it clanged off the back of the rim and Wheaton escaped with the upset victory.
The teams battled back-and-forth early in the first half, with neither team leading by more than five for the first twelve and a half minutes. Wheaton had a 9-2 run that increased its lead to 10, the largest of the game, with 3:09 remaining in the half. Tech responded with a 7-0 spurt of its own, to get within three, 34-31, heading into the locker room.
The Lyons would score the first seven points of the second, including five straight by Leo, before Kates and Will Tashman scored the next seven, to get back within three.
Four Lyons finished in double figures, led by Degnan and Stehle, who each had 15 points. Degnan shot 71.4% from the field (5-7) and made all three of his attempts from long-distance. Leo had 12 points and five rebounds while Coppola added 11 points.
Tashman and Kates were the high scorers for MIT, also finishing with 15. Tashman added nine rebounds and four steals. Bender had a double-double with 12 points and 12 caroms. The Cardinal and Gray held a 33-26 advantage on the glass but shot just 4-20 from three-point range.
The Engineers will look to bounce back on Wednesday, January 27 when they travel to Coast Guard for a 7:30 p.m. game. Wheaton has a pair of non-conference contests this week, beginning with a home date with Tufts on Tuesday. That game begins at 7:00 p.m.