By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA — It’s been a few weeks since MIT’s men’s basketball team played an actual game, so it was expected that Wednesday’s contest against Springfield College wasn’t going to be perfect.
However, the Engineers found a way to maneuver past the Pride, despite various lead changes, and earn their 13th win of the season, as well as their first conference victory by a score of 67-59.
“I think [we were] just a little rusty from being off for three weeks,” said MIT head coach Larry Anderson. “We were playing pretty well before the semester break, and we practice well, and it was just one of those games I think when you come out and play, [and know] you’re going to have some rust [because we didn’t’] get a chance to practice [because] you go home and take a break, and not get a chance to play basketball.”
Springfield dominated from the start by building a small lead that eventually MIT reduced when junior Will Tashman, (18 points, six rebounds, and two assists) sparked his offense by scoring five points.
MIT built off his momentum, and eventually tied the game when junior Mitchell Kates, (eight points, five assists, and three steals) scored a layup halfway through the first half.
The Pride eventually regained the lead, but then relinquished it to the Engineers, as senior Daniel McCue knocked down an open three-pointer that helped MIT finish the half on a 10-5 run.
“We shoot 40 percent from three-point range,” said Anderson. “We knew coming in [that] Noel Hollingsworth being an All-American, [Springfield] was going to try and double [him], so if you don’t have somebody who can shoot the long ball, you’re going to miss those, [and then] you won’t get anything going”
Senior Jamie Karraker kick-started MIT’s offense during the second half, as the Engineers jumped out to a six-point lead, which Springfield attempted to erase, but couldn’t due to a few missed shots and fouls during the final minutes.
However, the Engineers capitalized on a missed shot by freshman Nick Sienkiewicz, which allowed Kates to dribble up court and locate senior Billy Bender, who sank the game winning three-pointer with less than a minute remaining.
“He just hits big shots,” said Tashman, when asked to describe Bender’s three-point play. “We always feel comfortable giving [the ball] to him [in] late game situations, and he just knocked it down. Mitch drew two guys, and Bender was wide open, and ready, and knocked it down.”
Bender then connected on a few free throws, which preserved the lead, and eventually the game.
“[This is] the first game back since the break, [and] we clearly weren’t in good tempo on offense or on defense. We were missing a lot of our rotations, [and] rebounds,” said Tashman. “Springfield’s a tough team. They forced us out of our element a little bit, and they got us a little uncomfortable, but luckily we held on and made some big plays down the stretch.”
MIT will return to the hardwood on Saturday, Jan. 7, when they host Wheaton College, while Springfield College will conclude their two-game road trip on the same day when they visit Coast Guard.