February 15, 2012

MIT Closes out Regular Season with 71-66 Win at WPI

WORCESTER, Mass. – No. 3 ranked MIT scored 21 of the first 22 points of the second half and held on for a 71-66 road win over WPI in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball action at Harrington Auditorium on Wednesday night. With the win, the Engineers close out a 23-1 regular season, avenging the only blemish on their schedule, and finish the conference slate 11-1. WPI drops to 17-6 and 7-4 in NEWMAC play.

Junior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) had an outstanding game, posting 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Senior Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, Utah) led all scorers with 21 points and added seven boards. Junior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) scored all 11 of his points in the second half.

Marco Coppola (Watertown, Mass.) was one of four WPI players in double-digits with a team-high 16 points. Matt Carr (Somersworth, N.H.) pitched in 12 points to go along with six blocks.

Trailing 35-31 at the break, MIT came storming out of the locker room, outscoring the host Engineers, 21-1, including 19 straight, over the first seven minutes of the half. A swarming Tech defense forced WPI into four early turnovers, leading to fast-break opportunities. Kates' driving layup gave MIT its first lead since the opening seconds at 38-36 with 16:42 to play. Hollingsworth rattled home a three and knocked down a pair of free throws and Kates found senior Billy Bender (The Woodlands, Texas) in the corner to cap a 19-0 spurt and give Cambridge's Engineers their largest lead of the night.

WPI would fight back with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes to get back within six but Kates converted back-to-back layups to stretch the advantage back into double-figures with eight and a half to play. The lead would stay between 10 and 14 over the next five and half minutes before Bender fouled Coppola on a three-point attempt with 2:55 to go. Coppola sank all three and then found David Brown (Lowell, Mass.) for a corner three on the ensuing possession to cut the deficit to six, the closest the hosts had been since the 14:35 mark of the second.

After Kates' layup was blocked with 48 seconds to play, Jamie Shannon (Lowell, Mass.) drove the length of the floor and cut the gap to four with a traditional three-point play. WPI forced a turnover on the inbounds and Coppola made one-of-two from the line to bring the hosts within three. But Bender would calmly sink a pair of free throws end and Kates denied Shannon at the other end to help preserve the five-point victory.

WPI held the MIT offense in check for much of the first half, limiting the Cardinal and Gray to just 40.0% shooting from the field and 2-of-10 from three-point range. The Tech big men, Tashman and Hollingsworth, kept MIT within striking distance, as each tallied double-figures in the opening stanza.

MIT will be off for 10 days before hosting the NEWMAC tournament semifinals on Saturday, February 25. WPI will host cross-town rival Clark University on Saturday in the regular season finale at 3:00 p.m.