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Last Friday, MIT competed against its Division I crosstown rival, Harvard, in a preseason Men’s Basketball game. At Laviete’s Pavillion, MIT drew in an enthusiastic fan base — though only a fraction of the crowd, the MIT student section out cheered the entirety of the Harvard side.

The game was closer than the score of 76-49 (Harvard) made it appear. The high turnover rate for the Engineers was the catalyst for Harvard’s offensive explosion, scoring 37 points off of the Engineer’s 22 turnovers (versus Harvard’s 6). Though, offensively the Engineers struggled due to Harvard’s strapping and quick defense — MIT only took 52 shots during the game, compared to Harvard’s 79, primarily a result of the turnover rate.

The Engineers matched Harvard in offensive rebounds, impressive as Harvard has a tall team and MIT had fewer opportunities to grab the ball off of the offensive board. They ousted Harvard in the rebounding category, 31 to 23. William Tashman ’13 was a standout offensive player during the game, scoring 7 of 10 from the field, banking both of his free throws, grabbing 11 rebounds (2 offensive), throwing 5 assists, and swatting 2 blocks.

On the defensive side, MIT excelled for a Division III program. Even though the Engineer’s players weren’t as mammoth as the Division I Crimson players, they were able to keep up with Crimson offense with good defensive pressure, containing Harvard to only 76 points, a team that averaged 71 points against Division I teams last season. MIT’s strong defensive show last Friday substantiates its recent 10th place ranking among Division III basketball programs by the NCAA, the highest preseason ranking in MIT Men’s Basketball’s history. Defense and rebounding look to be the team’s staples this year.

Mitchell H. Kates ’13, 2009–2010 NEWMAC rookie of the year, feels that the NEWMAC championship is a goal and that a deep run in the NCAA tournament is possible with the depth of the Engineer’s team. Concerning the game, Mitchell said, “Harvard definitely exposed a lot of our weaknesses as a basketball team. It is still very early in the season, and we will work on correcting some of those pitfalls as the year progresses.” He emphasized that the Engineers have “one of the best front courts in DIII,” meaning the team should out rebound all of its opponents.

Coach Larry Anderson, head basketball coach since 1995 and the winningest coach in the program’s history, recognizes that “there are high expectations for the basketball program”. He believes that “MIT is a place where [students are] used to being up front on the academic side” and that he and his team strive “to be that way athletically”. When asked about the season ahead of the promising team, Coach Anderson responded frankly, “I don’t know if we’re good enough to be ranked number ten in the nation, but we’re going to have to prove that every day in practice and every game out … we’re going to play hard, together, and as smart as we can.”

The Engineer’s season officially begins today at Curry College at 8 p.m.; MIT is favored to win.