With the end of the regular season in sight, the No. 23 MIT men’s basketball team took to the road for the final time in New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference play tonight, taking on a determined Babson College squad. The Engineers started quickly and held a 26-point advantage in the second half before holding off a charge by the Beavers to win their fifth straight game. William Tashman ’13 continued his strong play of late, leading MIT with 17 points.
MIT (17-4, 8-2 NEWMAC) started the game hot from the field, hitting on five of its first seven field goal attempts. Babson (11-12, 3-7 NEWMAC) was the opposite at the start, hitting just one of its first five attempts. As a result the Engineers opened with a 12-1 run, with Tashman tossing in five of the points, over the first four and a half minutes of the game.
Babson cut it to a 10-point affair after a pair of free throws by junior Matt Palazini made it 15-5 at the 14:12 mark. But MIT scored the next seven, taking a 22-5 lead after a three from Justin M. Pedley ’16. A layup by senior Russell Braithwaite and a three from freshman Travis Sheldon kick started a 13-5 run by the Beavers over a five-minute span that saw them get the deficit back under 10 points when a jumper by sophomore John Wickey with seven minutes left made it 27-18.
MIT then ended the half the same way it started, on a run. Over the last two minutes senior Mitchell H. Kates ’13 led a 10-2 MIT spurt that pushed the Engineers’ lead to 43-24 at the half. Kates hit a three with 53 seconds left and went on to score seven points in that span to lead MIT into the locker room with the 19-point advantage.
MIT did not let up at the start of the second half as it out scored Babson 11-4 over the first two and a half minutes. James R. Burke ’13 and Nicholas J. Prus ’15 started the streak with three-point shots and when Tashman finished it with a free throw the Engineers had extended their advantage to 54-28.
After hitting four of its first five shots of the half, MIT went cold from the field for the rest of the game. The Babson defense held the Engineers to just three of 11 shooting the rest of the way, with two of the made shots coming in the final two minutes. A layup by junior Kenny Ross began the Babson comeback attempt with 16:47 left. It took 10 minutes but the Beavers shaved 15 points off the MIT lead, coming all the way back to 60-49 with 6:44 left after a made three by Sheldon. Ross, Sheldon and Braithwaite combined for 19 of the 21 points in the Babson run that saw the Beavers defense force 11 turnovers in its comeback attempt.
Babson still trailed by 11 with 4:24 left, but it would prove to be as close as it would get as MIT rattled off five straight points. The Engineers closed the game on a 7-2 run, with Tashman and Matthew M. Redfield ’15 hitting key baskets down the stretch that helped the Engineers claim the victory.
Tashman was one of four players to reach double figures for MIT, with Redfield and Prus adding 11 points each, with Prus’ total a career best effort. Kates contributed 10 points along with three assists and six rebounds. Redfield led MIT with nine rebounds as the Engineers claimed a 31-23 edge on the boards. Braithwaite led Babson with 15 points, with Sheldon finishing with 12. Peter Foley led the Beavers with seven rebounds.
MIT will return home for the final three games of the regular season, starting with a NEWMAC matchup with Clark University on Saturday starting at 3:00 p.m. Babson will not play again until next Wednesday when the Beavers will play a conference game at Wheaton at 7:00 p.m.