NORTON, Mass. – For the first time in program history, the MIT women's basketball team defeated a nationally-ranked opponent as it edged out No. 22 Wheaton College, 60-59, in a NEWMAC contest on Thursday night. Junior Mari Kordell (Ijamsville, Md.) paced the Engineers (6-6, 3-4 NEWMAC) with 17 points and added four assists and four rebounds in handing the Lyons (12-1, 7-1 NEWMAC) their first loss of the season.
MIT sophomore Sabrina Drammis (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) registered her fifth double-double of the season on 12 rebounds and 10 points. Senior Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) produced eight points, six boards, and three blocks as junior Michelle Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.) recorded seven rebounds, six points, and two steals. Sophomore Maya Ramachandran (Fremont, Calif.) tallied six points, six rebounds, two blocks, and two steals while freshman Liana Ilutzi (East Hanover, N.J.) notched eight points and two assists. Sophomore Durva Bhandare (North Brunswick, N.J.) rounded out the squad with five points, four rebounds, and two assists. As a team, the Engineers held an 18-5 margin in points off turnovers by capitalizing on 17 miscues by the hosts.
Wheaton scored the first six points of the game but MIT responded with three-pointers by Kordell and Bhandare which eventually resulted in a 14-8 lead for the Engineers after 5:40 elapsed. The Lyons countered with a 9-1 run to go in front; however, Battipaglia drained a pair of free throws to even the score at 17 with 9:15 on the clock. Two more ties followed before free throws by Ramachandran and Kordell gave the Cardinal and Gray a 25-22 edge with 5:06 left in the half. Wheaton then replied with a 10-3 run to end the frame with a 32-28 lead.
The Lyons' advantage reached six points on three occasions early in the second stanza, the last at 38-32 following almost five minutes of action. MIT mounted a 13-1 run that began with a Drammis free throw and was capped with two of her layups, putting it ahead, 45-39, at the halfway point. Wheaton generated nine unanswered points in a span of two minutes; however, a trifecta by Ilutzi sparked a 13-4 run that gave the Engineers a 58-52 cushion with 2:36 to go.
In less than a minute, Wheaton narrowed the gap to one (58-57) courtesy of two free throws and a three-pointer. After two missed free-throw attempts by MIT and a Wheaton layup that was off the mark, Kordell was sent to the charity stripe where she converted both ends of a one-and-one with 40 seconds left. The Lyons quickly drove to the basket, sinking a layup after 11 seconds expired.
Kordell tried to give the Engineers some breathing room but her pull-up jumper in the middle of the lane rimmed out with 18 seconds remaining, setting up what proved to be Wheaton's final possession of the night. MIT stymied the Lyons' offense, forcing it to call a timeout with 5.3 ticks on the clock. Following the break, Wheaton drove to the basket but Hunt blocked the layup with just over a second left as the ball bounced towards the far sideline as time expired.
The Engineers conclude their NEWMAC road trip on Saturday, Jan. 11 at Clark University.