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MIT holds off Nichols, 64-60

Has the men's basketball team rebounded from a mid-season slump? Two consecutive strong performances seem to say so. The Engineers (5-10) held off a strong comeback effort by the visiting Bison of Nichols College (2-13) to win 64-60 Saturday in Rockwell Cage. MIT also beat Curry College last week.

Against the Bison, MIT enjoyed a 46-31 lead going into the final 13 minutes of the game, when the visitors' defense toughened. The visitors' full-court press enabled them to storm back over the next nine minutes and outscore the Engineers, 20-8, closing the lead to 54-51.

The Engineers quickly regained their composure, as 6'6" center Bruce Mihura '88 sank the first of two free throws to give MIT a 55-51 edge at the 3:17 mark. Craig Poole '86, who led MIT scorers with 17 points, scored on the Engineers' next possession, and a tip-in by Mihura moments later extended the margin to eight points.

Poole sealed the Bison's fate when he converted both ends of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, giving MIT a 61-51 lead with 1:59 remaining.

"It was a great win for us," said Coach Fran O'Brien. "We were very pleased with the win because Nichols played an excellent second half. We played very well at times in the first half, but we let them get back in the game."

The Bisons seemed unable to stop the Engineers' fast-break offense in the first half, as MIT ran to a 10-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game. Mihura and forward Mike McElroy '87 scored on a series of outlet passes from 5'7" point guard Jim Egan '86. McElroy, whose 15 points pushed his MIT career total past the 1000 mark, dominated the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds. Mihura spent much of the game in foul trouble but still tallied 12 points and six rebounds.

Nichols scored for the first time with 14:38 remaining in the first half. Kevin Gabrielian and Paul Blasewitz, the Bisons' pair of 6'4" front-liners, maneuvered their way inside the Engineers' zone defense for 17 first-half points. Meanwhile, Nichols applied a full-court press that slowed MIT's offense.

A Nichols surge late in the half brought the Bisons within five points of MIT with two minutes remaining, but they could come no closer. The Engineers led at the half, 32-23.

McElroy opened the second-half scoring on a lay-up after a rebound. But the Bison defense shut down McElroy for the remainder of the contest, limiting him to only two more points. McElroy, averaging 21.2 points-per-game, only managed to score 15 points.

Poole paced the Engineers' second-half attack, while Randy Nelson '86, who turned in an 11-point performance, provided MIT with some much-needed perimeter shooting.

The Engineers broke a seven-game losing streak on Jan. 23 with a 69-60 victory over Curry College. They begin a four-game road trip next week, traveling to Connecticut College, Wesleyan, Amherst, and Gordon. MIT returns home to play Emerson on Feb. 8 as the team completes its season with five home games.