Second-Half Surge Leads MIT Past Wheaton, 45-41

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A 14-2 run during the opening minutes of the second half helped MIT overcome an early first-half deficit as it defeated Wheaton College, 45-41, in a NEWMAC women's basketball game on Wednesday night. Freshman Mari Kordell (Ijamsville, Md.) led the Engineers with a game-high 15 points, including a pair of free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining. The win snapped the Engineers' four-game skid and raised their record to 8-7 on the year and 4-5 in league play. Freshman Kenzie Kuhn (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) paced the Lyons (6-10, 4-5 NEWMAC) with 13 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

Wheaton opened the game with nine unanswered points, with freshman Abbie Brickley (Sandy, Utah) contributing a pair of layups to the spurt. MIT then scored seven straight courtesy of free throws from Kordell, junior Lauren Sascha Burton (Seattle, Wash.), and sophomore Tamara Pena (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) in addition to a layup by freshman Alexxis Isaac (San Antonio, Texas).

The Lyons quickly increased their advantage to 18-9, equaling their largest lead of the night. The Engineers narrowed the gap to four on a put-back from Isaac and three-pointer by Burton on back-to-back possessions. A jumper from Wheaton's Nicole Cullinane (Rindge, N.H.) was matched by freshman Michelle Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.) to maintain the four-point edge. The Lyons capitalized on a layup from Brickley and a basket by sophomore Lauren McClelland (Scituate, Mass.) to keep them in front, 24-16.

MIT continued to attack as a steal by sophomore Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) eventually led to her own three-pointer. Kuhn buried a jumper on Wheaton's next trip down the court but another steal by Hao resulted in a fast-break layup which brought the Engineers within five (26-21) at halftime.

The Cardinal and Gray carried the momentum into the second stanza as it mounted its pivotal run during the first seven minutes of action. A trey by Pena ignited the rally while Kordell followed with eight consecutive points. Burton's three-point play gave MIT a 35-28 advantage with 12:52 on the clock. Kuhn ended the Lyons' six-minute scoring drought with a three-pointer as Cullinane trimmed the lead to two at the 10:49 mark.

After three minutes of scoreless play, Isaac sank both of her shots at the charity stripe; however, Kuhn immediately replied with another trey. A turn-around jumper by Isaac gave the hosts a 39-36 edge with 6:28 to go. The defensive battle resumed during the next three minutes until Brickley found Cullinane for a layup.

Following a timeout by Wheaton, Kordell buried a three-pointer right after coming off the bench. The Lyons continued to threaten as Kuhn's three-pointer once again brought them within one (42-41) with 1:54 remaining. On MIT's next possession, Burton was fouled and she drained the second of her two free throw attempts. Wheaton almost tied the game or captured the lead during its next offensive set, but shots a Cullinane jumper and Kuhn three-point bid were just off the mark.

Kordell grabbed the defensive board and was promptly fouled with 46 seconds on the clock. Since Wheaton had one foul to give before putting the Engineers in the bonus, MIT in-bounded the ball and it made its way to Burton who was fouled with 31 seconds left to play. The front-end of the one-and-one bounced off the back of the rim and was snatched by senior Gabbie DePalo (Rumson, N.J.). Kuhn was unable to connect on her three-point try with 13 ticks remaining, forcing her to foul Kordell after grabbing the rebound which sent her to the free-throw line where she secured the victory.

Burton finished with nine points while Kordell added nine rebounds. Pena posted six rebounds and four assists as Isaac recorded eight points and four boards. Junior Anna Merrifield (Honolulu, Hawaii) rounded out MIT's defense with nine rebounds and four steals.

Brickley totaled 10 points and eight rebounds as Cullinane contributed nine points. DePalo amassed nine rebounds and four assists while McClelland had two blocks.

The Engineers led the way in points off turnovers (16-0) and were 11-of-14 from the free-throw line while the Lyons connected on all four of their free-throw attempts and had the upper-hand in points in the paint (14-8) and second-chance points (11-3).

Both teams continue NEWMAC play at home on Saturday, Jan. 21. MIT will host Smith College while Wheaton will take on Springfield College.