March 3, 2006

Third Time A Charm For Wheaton As MIT Is Bounced In ECAC Semifinal

March 3, 2006

Box Score

Courtesy
Wheaton Sports Information

NORTON, Mass. - Junior Brian Zukowski knocked down his first five three-point attempts and finished the night with a team-high 28 points to lead the Wheaton College men's basketball team to its third straight Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Tournament championship contest, as the sixth-seeded Lyons avenged two earlier-season losses to number two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with an 84-77 victory in Friday's semifinal round at Emerson Gymnasium.

Wheaton, which looks to defend its ECAC title against fourth seed Rhode Island College in a rematch of last year's championship contest, saw its overall record improve to 18-10 while the Engineers finished the season with a program-best 21 wins at 21-9. Rhode Island College ran away from top seed Keene State College, 86-48 in tonight's other semifinal. Saturday's championship in Providence, Rhode Island, is set for an 8:00 p.m. start.

A pair of individual accomplishments highlighted tonight's first half, including MIT senior Mike D'Auria surpassing 1,500 points for a career. Needing four to reach the milestone, D'Auria accounted for 10 points in the opening stanza en route to a career-best 32 points by shooting 12-of-18 from the floor and 5-of-9 from behind the arc. Wheaton senior Sean Kelly moved into ninth place on the school's all-time scoring list with four first-half points.

Zukowski hit a trio of three-point baskets during the first 3:17 as Wheaton scored 11 unanswered points for an 11-3 advantage. Both teams came out firing from long range, combining to hit nine of their first 12 three-point field goal tries for a 17-12 Lyon advantage. Clinging to a 20-19 edge at 9:33, Wheaton rattled off 11 straight points by four different players for a 10-point lead with 6:52 left.

The Lyons maintained their double-figure advantage for most of the remainder of the half, including holding a 37-24 lead on a conventional three-point play by freshman Nick Michel with 3:05 to play. Both teams exchanged baskets to close the half, with Wheaton carrying a 39-28 lead into the break. Over half of Wheaton's field goals in the opening half were threes, as the Lyons knocked down 8-of-12 from long range. The Blue and White made 14-of-30 overall compared to 10-of-26 for MIT.

Wheaton held between a nine- and 14-point advantage through the first 12:02 of play to begin the second half and eventually led by as many as 15 thanks to a pair of Zukowski free throws at 7:58. From that point, the Engineers went on a 14-2 run during a 2:44 stretch to draw within 61-58 with just over five minutes to go. D'Auria turned in seven points and freshman Billy Johnson had five in that spurt. However, a clutch three from senior James Greenslit and two Zukowski free throws quickly pushed the Wheaton lead back to eight at 3:59. The Engineers got no closer than four the rest of the way, as the Lyons hit 13-of-14 free throws in the final 1:33.

Wheaton shot a program-record 96.0 percent on free throws, hitting 24-of-25 foul shots overall and 21-of-22 in the second half alone, led by Zukowski's 8-of-8 performance. Zukowski made 7-of-13 shots from the field and 6-of-11 three-pointers, while Kelly contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Greenslit finished with 11 points and sophomore Jake Otto rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10.

D'Auria, who became MIT's third all-time leading scorer with 1,528 career points, added four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Johnson and sophomore Will Mroz recorded 11 points apiece off the bench.