By Matt Noonan
BABSON PARK, MA – With 6.4 seconds remaining in the second half, as well as a two-point advantage, Babson College junior Alex Rudolph marched to the free throw line, and sank two of the biggest shots in his collegiate career, which helped the Beavers prevail against Wheaton College in the NEWMAC quarterfinals, 62-58.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say there wasn’t pressure, but you fight your whole life, your whole career, you work to get to moments like that and I’m just glad I hit them,” said Rudolph, who turned in 19 points, and six rebounds.
Babson College head coach Stephen Brennan, who’s patrolled the Beavers sideline for the past 17 years, was quite shocked that this particular contest was won by Rudolph’s two free throws, especially since his squad struggled from the charity stripe, and connected on 11-of-24 attempts.
“We didn’t really talk much about the free throws, but [Alex] has been playing with great confidence. He was player of the week [in] the NEWMAC last week, and he’s just stepped up his competitive level to a new one,” said Brennan.
Brennan continued by saying, “It was great that he was willing to step up and make those because we had some other guys who didn’t.”
Rudolph jumpstarted Babson’s offense with a jump shot before sophomore Matt Palazini sank a three-pointer, and freshman David Mack recorded a layup to give the Beavers a comfortable, 8-0 advantage.
Wheaton junior Cliften Desravines, (14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) eventually got the Lyons on the board with two made free throws at 13:16, which ended a scoring drought of seven consecutive missed shots. Desravines then added a layup before senior Brendan Degnan, (13 points) sank two back-to-back free throws, which cut the deficit to 12-6.
“I just thought that at least at that point, we could have very easily been down 13 or 14 or 15 [points], so our defense really helped us stay close, and I thought Cliff gave us a big lift off the bench to get us some baskets, to get us going a little bit midway in the first half,” said Wheaton head coach Brian Walmsley.
“I thought Desravines played much better than he’s ever played against us,” said Brennan. “He did a good job spinning and finishing over our big guys.”
The Lyons then added a few more points from the free throw line before freshman John Wickey and Randolph sank back-to-back trifectas late in the first frame, which gave Babson a 30-24 lead at intermission.
“We just came out with a lot of intensity [in the first half],” said Rudolph. “Coach was preaching ‘energy’ before the game, and we just tried to come out, play as hard as we could on defense.”
Wickey and junior Marcus McDermott ballooned Babson’s lead to 34-26 before Wheaton’s defense ramped up its pressure and helped the offense come within three-points of the Beavers, as freshman Eddie Capstick connected from beyond the arc at 13:30, which made the score, 41-38.
Babson’s offense then exploded with a triple and two layups from sophomore Connor Boyen before Wheaton senior Anthony Weeks, (12 points) responded with two critical free throws that started a rally for the Lyons.
Degnan added a pair at the free throw line before Desravines and sophomore Will Bayliss made a few layups, which was followed by an enormous three-pointer from Weeks, as well as few free throws, too.
“We know Babson is a tremendous defensive team, and it was going to be a struggle to score against them, but our guys kept fighting and fighting,” said Walmsley, who was proud of his team’s second half play.
McDermott halted the Lyons comeback with a three-pointer, which was followed up with two made free throws by Mack to make it 60-53.
Babson’s lead was soon erased by a trifecta and two free throws from Degnan, which brought Wheaton within two-points. Yet, Weeks fouled Rudolph on the ensuing possession to stop the clock, but that didn’t stop Rudolph from making two free throws that secured the win for the Green and White.
“It got a little close for my liking, but it was a good team effort, [and] we had a lot of guys step up off the bench,” said Brennan.
The Beavers will look to keep their March Madness hopes alive when they travel to Cambridge on Saturday to face the top-ranked MIT Engineers at 1:00pm.
“MIT’s obviously a great team, but we thought we really had them in our last game at MIT, and we’re excited to get another shot at them,” said Rudolph