WORCESTER, Mass. – After playing No. 6 WPI close for most of the game, the MIT men's basketball team saw the Engineers pull away late on their home court to take a 65-59 New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference win. MIT trailed by just four with two minutes left, but WPI outscored MIT, 10-8, in the final two minutes to hold off the Engineers and remain undefeated. Senior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) had a game-high 19 points to lead MIT, while Ryan Kolb led WPI with 18.
Kates hit a pair of free throws with two minutes left that cut MIT's deficit to four at 55-51. But MIT (12-4, 3-2 NEWMAC) missed its next four field goal attempts and WPI (18-0, 5-0 NEWMAC) took advantage, as Sam Longwell hit a jump shot and a pair of free throws the Engineers scored six straight to open up a 10-point advantage with just 35 seconds left. Kates hit his only two threes of the game in the final 29 seconds, but WPI hit on 8-of-9 free throws down the stretch to keep MIT at bay.
Cold shooting hampered MIT all day as the Engineers hit on just 34 percent of their shots, including missing their first 12 attempts of the game. WPI was nearly as cold, however, hitting just one of its first eight attempts. As a result the first points of the game did not come until four minutes had gone by when Kolb hit a jump shot. MIT's first points did not come until over two minutes later on a free throw by Kates, but with WPI struggling on offense as well, MIT went on to tie the contest at 2-2 on a free throw by sophomore Paul Dawson (Stone Mountain, Ga.).
Sophomore Andrew Acker (Merion Station, Pa.) then came off the bench to provide a spark to the MIT offense, converting a three-point play that put MIT up 5-2 at 13:08. MIT continued to hang on to the lead at the midway point of the half after a layup by Dawson put the Engineers up 9-6. Aaron Davis tied it with a three for WPI and it remained close for the rest of the half. Acker hit another shot at 4:03 that put MIT up 20-19, but WPI came back to outscore the Engineers 7-3 for the rest of the half to take a 26-23 advantage into the locker room.
Another three by Davis at the start of the second half started a 7-0 run for WPI that resulted in a 33-23 lead after a layup by Kolb. WPI maintained its advantage, and with 10:53 left Kolb connected on a trey that made it 46-37.
MIT then made its move, holding WPI to just a pair of Kolb free throws over a six-minute stretch. Kates hit a jump shot and then a pair of free throws that cut the WPI lead to five. After Kolb's free throws, sophomore Matt Redfield (Los Altos, Calif.) scored five points in a 30-second span, converting a three-point play and then hitting two more free throws as the Engineers pulled within a pair at 48-46 with 5:24 left. Kates kept MIT within two with a layup a minute later, but Marco Coppola hit a key three-point basket for WPI with 2:20 left that pushed the Engineers back to a six-point lead and setting up the final two minutes of the contest.
Redfield and senior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) also reached double figures for MIT, with each netting 10 points. Redfield just missed a double-double, helping MIT to a 38-31 advantage on the boards with nine rebounds. Kolb was one of four players in double figures for WPI, with Davis finishing with 14 and Coppola and Longwell each scoring 10. Kolb, Coppola and Zach Karalis all had five rebounds to lead WPI, with Coppola adding six steals to his totals.
MIT will remain on the road for its next game as it travels to Clark University on Wednesday, January 23 for a 7:00 p.m. NEMWAC game with the Cougars. WPI will host Springfield College in a battle for sole possession of first place in the NEWMAC standings on Wednesday as well, with the two teams putting their undefeated conference marks on the line in a 5:30 p.m. contest.