BABSON PARK, Mass. - MIT Junior Billy Bender hit a lay-up and a free throw in the final 20 seconds to help the Engineers hold on for a thrilling 63-60 victory over host Babson College in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball contest at Staake Gymnasium on Thursday night. With the win, MIT (15-6, 5-3 NEWMAC) avenged a 73-56 loss to the Beavers (9-10, 4-4 NEWMAC) earlier this winter.
MIT was paced by sophomore Will Tashman, who scored 18 points, grabbed eight boards, and blocked three shots despite fouling out with six minutes left in the game. Sophomore Mitchell Kates added 11 points and a game-high eight assists, while first-year Will Dickson chipped in with 10 points. The Engineers shot 55.8 percent from the field, hitting 24 of 43 shot attempts.
Babson was led by sophomore Russell Braithwaite, who finished with team-highs of 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting 7-for-11 from the field. Senior captain Matt Zoia added 14 points and sophomore Marcus McDermott tossed in 10 for the Beavers, who hit at a 44.9 percent clip (23-49) from the floor.
MIT closed the first half with a 16-6 run to turn a 20-20 tie into a 36-26 advantage heading into the break. Tashman scored eight of his 14 first-half points during the burst, while Bender and Kates added three points apiece. For Babson, Zoia hit five of his first six shots, including a pair of three-pointers, for a team-high 12 points in the opening period of play.
The Engineers continued to add to their lead early in the second half, going up by as many as 16 after a three-pointer by Kates made it 48-32 with 13:27 left in the contest. However, Babson clawed its way back into the game with an 11-2 run over the next five and a half minutes, capped by a conventional three-point play by Braithwaite that cut MIT's lead to just 50-43 with 7:57 on the clock.
After pushing their lead back to 11 on a pair of occasions, the Engineers still led by double-digits after a Kates free throw made it 57-47 with 4:10 left. The Beavers then rattled off five straight points to cut the deficit in half, and they still trailed by only five after Braithwaite scored on an offensive rebound to make it 59-54 with 1:36 remaining.
Following a foul on the inbounds pass, Bender hit one of two from the line to make it a six-point affair. McDermott then answered with a tough lay-up in the paint for Babson to make it a four-point game with 1:23 left to play, and Braithwaite later drew a foul on another offensive board and hit both freebies to bring the Beavers to within two, 60-58, with 26.2 seconds on the clock.
After back-to-back MIT timeouts, the Engineers came up with what would turn out to be the game-winning basket on a length-of-the-court inbounds play. From his own baseline, senior Eric Zuk tossed a perfect pass over the shoulder of Bender, who ran it down and converted the breakaway lay-up to push the visitors' advantage back to four, 62-58, with 19.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The Beavers responded with a Braithwaite lay-up and an immediate foul with 12.9 ticks left, but Bender knocked down the second of two free throws to make it 63-60.
Babson attempted to free up Zoia for the tying three-pointer, but the Engineers' defense didn't allow the senior captain to get an open look. Sophomore Alex Rudolph was then forced to take a contested three from well beyond the arc on the left side, and his attempt caromed off the rim as the buzzer sounded as MIT held on for the 63-60 MIT win.
MIT will have off this weekend before returning to action on Wednesday, February 9 with another road contest. The Engineers travel to Clark for a 7:00 p.m. tilt.
Courtesy of Babson College Sports Information