Mass College Hoops Recap: MIT 71, WPI 66

By Matt Noonan 

WORCESTER, MA – This particular meeting didn’t exactly mirror the encounter in Cambridge a few weeks ago, as No. 3 MIT overcame a four-point deficit at halftime to defeat WPI, 71-66.

The Engineers used a 19-0 second half run, as well as some clutch free throws from senior Billy Bender, (12 points) during the final seconds of regulation to preserve his team’s 23rd regular season victory, along with a series split with WPI.

“They made it a little bit closer than we wanted, but I had faith in our starting-five, and even the guys on our bench to close out [this game], and make free throws when it [mattered], and Bender knocked them down when he needed to,” said junior Will Tashman, who finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

MIT didn’t exactly endure the greatest start, as various turnovers and missed shots allowed WPI to produce a small lead with two layups from senior David Brown, (13 points), which gave the home squad a 17-14 advantage at 8:37.

However, the road team answered on the ensuing possession with a jump shot by senior Noel Hollingsworth, (21 points, seven rebounds) which led to a few minutes of back and fourth basketball until sophomore Ryan Kolb sparked WPI’s offense with a trifecta.

Freshman Marco Coppola, (16 points) knocked down a three-pointer on the following offensive possession before junior Jameel Galloway ended the half with one free throw that gave WPI a 35-31 cushion at the break.

“We really struggled [in the first half],” said junior Mitchell Kates, who turned in 11 points and six rebounds. “At halftime we talked about what we had to do differently, and a bunch of guys picked me up and we said, one of the main things we have to do is to get up and down the court, get some transition going, and that’s what we did.”

Kates and his teammates executed their halftime strategy perfectly, as he sparked MIT’s exciting run with a few layups, which were followed up with some points from Tashman and Hollingsworth, as well as a three-pointer by Bender.

“We just brought a little more energy in the second half,” said Tashman. “Noel and I got a couple of easy looks in transition right over the top, and a couple layups always helps your confidence, so that got us going.”

WPI’s offense struggled to register a single point during their opponent’s five minute offensive stampede, but managed to tally a three-point play at 12:55 when senior Matt Carr recorded a layup and free throw.

Brown and Coppola complimented Carr’s offensive effort by helping WPI rally with various shots and free throws, which pulled the home team within six points of MIT, 66-60.

Although, a few offensive miscues during the final two minutes, allowed Bender to secure MIT’s 11th conference win when he sank a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining on the clock before Coppola ended the game with a layup.

MIT will return to the hardwood on Sat. Feb 25, when they host a semi-final NEWMAC tournament match, while WPI will return to Harrington Auditorium for the final team this season when they host Clark University for a 3:00pm tip-off.

“We’ll make the most of the layoff though. We’ll scrimmage in practice, and we’ll be ready for the tournament,” said Kates.

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