On Wednesday, the MIT’s Men’s Basketball team demonstrated its ability to perform well under tough conditions, an ability they will need as they fight for the NEWMAC postseason championships and the national championships.
Though MIT had a record of 22-1 and had secured the NEWMAC regular season title prior to Wednesday’s game, they played hard for the win anyway. Their opponent, WPI, was the “1,” the blemish, the team that made MIT’s perfect season an almost perfect season. WPI’s win had come at the expense of MIT’s home crowd as they defeated the Engineers in our own Rockwell Cage. On Wednesday, MIT had the opportunity for retribution. They played hard, attempting to steal the WPI players’ glory on their own court.
The game looked similar to the last time the teams met, except WPI and MIT had switched roles. In both games, one team ended the half four points down, last time it was WPI, and this time it was MIT. The first half was very much a back-and-forth game. WPI tried to move forward as MIT held on, making a few crucial baskets to tighten the gap like William E. Bender ’12’s 3-point shot near the end of the half.
The second half was quite a different story. In their first meeting of the season, the second half was where WPI broke away, outscoring MIT by 16 points. Though, unlike Wednesday’s game, this lead was built slowly, as WPI played better than MIT throughout the half. In Wednesday’s game, the Engineers didn’t just break away — they exploded. Right away, MIT responded to their deficit by scoring quickly. At the start of the half, it looked as if MIT was playing a high school squad; the Engineers were running circles around WPI. MIT scored 21 of the first 22 points of the half.
After a free throw on WPI’s side, Mitchell H. Kates ’13 made a layup, starting a 19-0 drive. During this drive, WPI missed seven shots, three of which were layups, due to MIT’s persistent defense. MIT, however, ignored the midrange game, making five layups and two threes along with a couple of free throws. This run took MIT from a 31-35 deficit at the end of the first half to a 52-36 lead with 13:10 left in the second.
WPI attempted to come back for the remainder of the half, giving MIT a scare toward the end by depleting the deficit to only three after a layup, and one with 19 seconds left. Bender, though, prevented WPI from getting any further, making the last four free throws of the game, securing an MIT victory of 71-66.
MIT’s big men were a huge part of the team’s victory; Noel Hollingsworth ’12 was the lead scorer with 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and William Tashman ’13 managed his ninth double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Engineers will next play at home in the NEWMAC semifinals, which will be hosted by MIT in Rockwell Cage on Saturday, Feb. 25.