LANCASTER, Pa. – The MIT men's basketball team achieved a new level of program success on Saturday night, defeating Franklin & Marshall College, 69-54, to advance the NCAA Division III Final Four for the first time in the 112-year history of the program. The Engineers (29-1) used great defense and timely shooting to down the host Diplomats and move on the national semifinals, which will be held in Salem, Va. next weekend.
Junior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) continued his outstanding NCAA tournament run, scoring 21 points to go along with eight assists, three rebounds and three steals. Senior Jamie Karraker (Morgantown, W.Va.) had 17 points on five-of-10 shooting from deep and added six caroms. Senior Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, Utah) added 14 points and a team-high nine boards.
The Cardinal and Gray made nine-of-16 shots from deep as a team while shooting 46.9% from the field. The Engineers also limited the ninth-ranked Diplomats to their lowest output of the season, as Franklin & Marshall made just 18 of its 47 attempts from the floor.
"Going to the final four is not about me, it's about our student-athletes," Coach Anderson said after the game. "It means a lot to all of us, anytime you get a chance to represent your institution on a national stage it's a big deal and we're going to treat it that way. We're excited about it and humbled to be in this situation."
Despite leading by as many as 15 in the second half, Tech needed to withstand a furious rally by the Diplomats down the stretch. Georgio Milligan (Spring Valley, N.Y.) started the comeback with a traditional three-point play to cut the MIT lead to 10 with 2:35 to play. Junior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) made one-of-two from the line and Hollingsworth knocked down a three-pointer to push the advantage back to 14 with just over a minute and a half remaining.
Milligan drained one of his three three-pointers and was fouled on another long-range attempt by Tashman, making three free throws to bring the Diplomats within eight. Freshman Paul Dawson (Stone Mountain, Ga.) then made one free throw before a pair of Max Brewer (Park Ridge, N.J.) closed the spread to seven.
That would be the closest Franklin & Marshall would get, however, as the Engineers made eight straight foul shots down the stretch to seal the trip to Salem.
"At the beginning of the season and throughout the season, we expected to be here," Karraker said about the Final Four. "It's been a big goal and a big focus of ours all year and we're very happy to be there."
After Tech scored the game's first four points, Franklin & Marshall responded with a 9-1 run but Karraker would hit back-to-back three-balls to retake the lead. Jon Salandra's (Harrison, N.Y.) jumper at the 6:14 mark gave the Diplomats their final lead of the evening, as Kates would score the final six points of the half to send MIT into the locker room with a seven point lead.
The Engineers came out of the intermission firing, as Karraker and senior Daniel McCue (Hampden, Maine) hit three straight shots from deep, to push the advantage to 13 at the first media timeout. The teams would then combine for a pair of long scoreless stretches, as the MIT lead swayed between seven and 12 points.
Milligan finished with a game-high 23 points in the losing effort. Salandra and Hayk Gyokchyan (Beruit, Lebanon) had 11 apiece. Salandra also added 11 boards.
"You only get so many opportunities," said Kates, "and we plan to make the most of this one."
MIT will take on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the national semifinal game on Friday, March 16. The Warhawks defeated Virginia Wesleyan University, 76-62, to advance to the final four. Game times for the semifinals will be announced later this week.