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Men...s Hoops Defeated By WPI in Close Game

By Travis Johnson
SPORTS EDITOR

In a game of huge momentum swings, MIT Men’s Basketball lost a heartbreaker to nationally ranked WPI 59-58 Saturday on a last-second shot.

The first swing in the game came in favor of MIT (14-7, 5-4 NEWMAC), whose hot shooting from beyond the arc gave it a quick 19-9 lead only five minutes into the game. But WPI (19-1, 8-1) cranked up its defense and held MIT to just 7 points over the next 15 minutes, grabbing a 34-26 halftime lead.

Ball pressure, wing denial, and rebounding by WPI combined to stifle MIT, forcing desperation shots with the shot clock running out. Michael W. D’Auria ’06 often ended up penetrating and shooting a floater because MIT’s offensive sets couldn’t get started. The WPI run continued into the second half, pushing the lead to 13 with 15:02 to play.

Just when it looked like the game would turn into a blowout, MIT found a solution to the defensive pressure: 6’9” quarterback Gary R. Atkins ’06. By running their offense through Atkins, who could see over the defense and find cutting guards, the Engineers were able to chip away at the WPI lead.

The chipping went slowly until there was only 7:00 to play, when WPI shooting suddenly went cold. After shooting close to 70 percent in the first half, Worcester seemed like it couldn’t hit any shots. Behind big baskets by D’Auria and James M. Bartolotta ’09, MIT fought back into competition late.

With the game tied and under a minute to play, D’Auria missed two free throws. He got another chance after a big defensive stop, and made one of two with 7 seconds left.

Down 58-57, WPI’s Brian Steele drove up the floor and through an MIT defender trying to take a charge. He dished to teammate Antoine Coleman, who hit an 8-footer with 0.2 seconds on the clock, sealing the game.

MIT fans and coaches wanted a charge called on the play, but that is very difficult late in a close basketball game because referees try to let players decide the game without interference.

Coleman’s shot was the first field goal for WPI since the 7 minute mark. Worcester’s only offense during that span came from the free throw line, where they were brilliant: 85 percent as a team, including 9-9 from star guard Ryan Cain.

With Coleman and Cain struggling in the first half, WPI got a huge boost off the bench from Ryan Borque, a 6’10” post player for whom MIT had no answer. Borque went 5-6 from the field, including two emotional dunks.

MIT really missed sophomores Hamidou Soumare and William D. Mroz; without the depth they usually provide, MIT only had 5 players score, and could not effectively guard the post.