By Brian Willwerth
WORCESTER, MA – No. 6 WPI knew it would be in for a tough contest Saturday afternoon against the preseason No. 1 team in the country. The Engineers from Worcester were up to the challenge against the Engineers from Cambridge.
WPI defeated MIT, 65-59, with a total of seven players scoring in double-figures. The win accomplished three things for the home-standing Engineers: they stayed undefeated (18-0); they remained in first place in the NEWMAC (tied with Springfield) and avenged a home defeat to MIT at Harrington Auditorium last year.
With a jacked-up crowd looking on, this game was intense and physical from the get-go. Both teams got off to a slow start, going scoreless for more than four minutes to start the contest. But WPI wound up shooting 41% from the field in the opening half, while holding MIT to just 26%.
“I just thought our kids stayed composed,” said WPI head coach Chris Bartley. “We kept them at bay enough, and made enough big plays to escape with the win.”
The home team led by three at the half. In last year’s matchup in Worcester, MIT came out sizzling to start the second half, going on a 22-2 run and holding on for the win. But Saturday was different. When MIT appeared to be making a run, WPI would withstand the challenge.
Ryan Kolb led WPI with 18 points; Aaron Davis had 14, while Marco Coppola and Sam Longwell each netted 10, respectively.
MIT’s Mitchell Kates led all scorers with 19 points, while Will Tashman and Matt Redfield each netted 10.
“The second half was real important,” said Kolb. “I just stepped up (and) hit some shots.” Kolb also talked about the importance of keeping Tashman in check, calling him “a beast.”
”Individually, (MIT) might have three of the best players in the country at their positions. So it was a really quality win for us,” said Bartley.
As big a game as this was for WPI, the Engineers have an even bigger one coming up on Wednesday night against Springfield. First place in the NEWMAC will be on the line.