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Mens' Basketball Avenges Earlier Defeat to Norwich

By Daniel Wang
Associate Sports Editor

The men's basketball team held off a late comeback effort to defeat Norwich University by a score of 83-80, Tuesday night at Rockwell Cage, in a Constitution Athletic Conference contest. The Engineers evened the score with the Cadets, after losing to them earlier in the season, 68-49, at Norwich. The win not only improved the Engineers' record to 7-14, overall, and 3-5 in the CAC, but also broke a two-game losing streak.

In the first half, the Engineers took the first lead and never lost it. The game was the first at home for guard Nikki Caruthers '95, since an injury that he sustained in a game against Suffolk University earlier in the season. Caruthers actually returned to action in the previous game, against Western New England College, but played even more and even better this time.

Center Keith Whalen '96 started things off by scoring the first four points for MIT. With 18 minutes 49 seconds left in the first half, Whalen made an easy basket. Less than half a minute later, he was fouled and successfully completed both of the

ensuing free throws.

Soon afterwards, the Norwich players started showing tenacious defense, which created many turnovers, and effective passing, which often left someone wide open for a shot. The Norwich shooters were busy the entire night, attempting numerous shots from long range, and making many of them.

However, the big trouble was that the Cadets had trouble putting the ball through the basket. The Engineers took advantage of this, and ran up their lead to a barely comfortable margin. Whenever the Cadets scored, the Engineers were usually able to respond right away with baskets of their own.

MIT had its biggest lead with 2:33 remaining in the half, when Caruthers made a lay-up off of a fast break, to make the score 40-23. In the half, shooting from the field and from three-point range were almost equal for both teams. Norwich shot 11 for 29 from the field, while MIT had figures of 12 for 28. From three-point land, Norwich shot 4 for 10, a little better than the 3 for 9 effort by the Engineers.

However, the big difference was in the free throw category. MIT performed well from the line, making 18 of 22 shots. Meanwhile, their opponent was only able to make 6 out of 9 shots. The difference allowed the Engineers to go into halftime with a 45-32 lead.

Different Strategies in 2nd half

In the second half, MIT Head Coach Leo Osgood tried some different strategies to break the rhythm of the Cadets. In the early going, he wanted to focus his team's strength on the outside shooters. After center Mark Heffernan '95 fell into foul trouble with about 17 minutes left to play, Osgood let him and Whalen rest on the bench, and entered Arthur von Waldburg '97 into the game. Although the Cadets pulled to within 7 points, the strategy worked well enough to keep them from closing the gap. The Engineers had a stroke of luck when the Cadets had trouble sinking their foul shots.

With a little less than twelve-and-a-half minutes remaining, Osgood gave his team a different appearance by entering both Whalen and Heffernan at the same time. The team now had strength on the inside, near the hoop, which turned out to be helpful at times.

However, as the 10-minute mark ticked by, Norwich players became more determined with their comeback effort. At 8:22, the Cadets made the first of three three-pointers in less than a minute and a half.

After the 5-minute mark, both sides started losing players to fouls. Norwich starting center Mark Whittaker fouled out with 4:23 left to play. Soon afterwards, Heffernan committed his fifth foul, removing him from the game. Moments later, at 3:40, Cadet forward David Brown also left the game due to fouls.

Even so, the Cadets continued their outside shooting rampage. As time ticked by, the Engineers' lead dwindled. With a minute left to play, forward Tim Porter '96 fouled out, and joined Heffernan. Cadet Jeff Davis, who Porter fouled, sank the two free throws to bring the score to 80-77, nearly bridging the gap. A Norwich player attempted another three-pointer, which would have tied the game, but his shot missed.

Forward Joe Levesque '95 turned out to save the game for MIT. With 35 seconds left in the game, Levesque was fouled while attempting to grab a rebound. His first free throw missed badly, as the ball hit the front of the rim. He then adjusted and made the second shot, providing a comfortable, but still not secure, lead.

The crowd then started cheering during the Norwich possessions, hoping to inspire the defense. The cheers seemed to work, as the Cadets could not score a field goal.

Then, with 10 seconds left to play, Levesque was fouled again by a Norwich player trying to stop the clock. Levesque handily canned both resulting free throws, with the ball finding nothing but the bottom of the net on the second one.

Levesque's two baskets turned out to provide some breathing room, as Jose Abreu of Norwich made yet another three-pointer a few seconds later. After Levesque received an inbounds pass, two Cadets fought with him for the ball. However, Levesque was able to hold on to the ball long enough to let the time run out.

Four starters in double figures

In this game, four of the five starters scored in double figured, led by Caruthers, who scored 22 points, including a superb 14 for 18 from the free throw line. Next in line were Levesque with 19, Whalen with 17, and Hyun with 10. Heffernan led the team in rebounding, with 7 boards.

In the entire game, the team made 45 percent of its shots from the field, 23 percent from three-point range, and an impressive 77 percent from the free throw line, which seemed to be the deciding factor in the game. In terms of numbers, Norwich outscored MIT both in field goals, 26-23, and in three-pointers, 12-3. However, the Engineers went to the line for 44 shots, and made 34 of them, while the Cadets made only 16 out of 26.

WNEC avenges loss

Last Saturday, despite the return of Nikki Caruthers '95, Western New England College defeated the Engineers, 76-68, in another conference game. This situation was much like the MIT-Norwich battles, but in an opposite way; earlier in the season, MIT defeated WNEC, 84-78, in overtime. The team played poorly in the first half, displaying 25 percent shooting from the field, and 40 percent from the free throw line. As the result, MIT players made only 11 baskets, 7 of them as field goals, causing them to experience a 40-19 deficit at halftime.

The Engineers played much better in the second half, making five three-pointers, but could not close the gap. In the entire game, they made 39 percent of shots from the field, 43 percent from three-point land, and 54 percent from the foul line. The Engineers were especially a victim of turnovers, with 25.

Four of the starters maintained their season's average scoring in double figures. Hyun led the team, with 18 points. Whalen followed, with 15, adding to his team-leading 11 rebounds. Caruthers and Levesque both had 10 points.

The Engineers will play their final regular season game tomorrow afternoon, against Babson College at Rockwell Cage in another CAC matchup. This will also be the final home game of the season for the Engineers, unless they can manage a fourth-place or better, finish in the conference standing. The tournament will begin on Saturday, Feb. 26. The team currently stands in fifth place in the six-team CAC.