CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Senior Billy Bender's (The Woodlands, Texas) only bucket of the night came in the final minute and helped clinch a hard-fought, 67-59 victory for the No. 4 ranked MIT men's basketball team over visiting Springfield College in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) opener for both teams in Rockwell Cage on Wednesday night. The Cardinal and Gray remains perfect at 13-0 while the Pride fall to 8-5 on the campaign.
With the shot clock winding down, junior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) kicked the ball to Bender, who calmly knocked down the corner three to put the Cardinal and Gray ahead, 61-55, with 53 seconds to go. Alex Berthiaume (Springfield, Mass.) turned the ball over at the other end of the court and the Engineers made their free throws down the stretch to win their conference opener for the fourth time in five years.
With the score tied at 51, junior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) converted a traditional three-point play to put Tech up by three with 5:54 to go. The Pride kept things close over the final six minutes, twice getting back within one. A tough put-back by senior Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, Utah) gave MIT a 58-55 advantage, setting up Bender's big shot.
The two teams started slowly on offense, as the only points of the game's first four minutes came on a three-ball by Robbie Burke (Cheshire, Mass.). After Springfield took an 8-2 lead just over six minutes in, the Cardinal and Gray came back with a 7-2 run, capped by Kates' layup at the 12:13 mark. Tech would close the half on a 20-10 spurt to lead, 37-31, after Kates found Hollingsworth for an open jumper at the buzzer.
Jordan Rote's (Sheffield, Mass.) layup gave Springfield its first lead of the second half with 11:45 to go but senior Hollingsworth responded with a three-pointer to put MIT on top, 49-47. Back-to-back layups by Evan Christner (Voorheesville, N.Y.) made it 51-49 with just over eight minutes left to play.
Tashman was one of three MIT players in double-figures, leading the team with 18 points on seven-of-12 shooting. Hollingsworth had 14 points to go along with seven rebounds and senior Jamie Karraker (Morgantown, W. Va.) tallied 11 points. Bender added eight boards to go along with his seven points and Kates led the squad with five assists.
Berthiaume was the high-scorer for Springfield with 16 points while Rote and Nick Sienkiewicz (Cranston, R.I.) each chipped in nine.
Tech will continue its homestand on Saturday, January 7, welcoming NEWMAC rival Wheaton College for a 2:00 p.m. tilt. Springfield will travel to New London, Conn. on Saturday for an in-conference matchup with Coast Guard.