Tech Escapes RPI, 56-55, in Tip-Off Tournament Final

Courtesy of RPI Sports Information

TROY, N.Y. - Freshman guard Mitchell Kates scored a game-high 22 points to lead the MIT men's basketball team to a 56-55 victory over Rensselaer, this afternoon in the Rensselaer Tip-Off Championship Game at East Campus Arena. With the win, MIT improve to 3-0, while RPI suffers its first loss of the season, falling to 2-1.

Earning Tournament MVP honors, Kates went 10 for 19 from the floor and recorded three rebounds and an assist. Joining him on the All-Tournament Team was sophomore Noel Hollingsworth. Rensselaer's Ricky Philatre and DJ Blakemore made the team as well, along with Cooper Union forward Alex Nagorniy and John Abbott guard Corey Simmons.

A Philatre put-back gave Rensselaer a 55-52 lead with 1:10 to go in the game. On the ensuing possession, MIT had a pair of attempts come up short, but an Eric Zuk offensive rebound led to a Kates lay-in and a defensive foul on RPI. Kates missed the free throw and the chance to even the score, but after a missed 1-and-1 opportunity for Rensselaer was tipped towards mid-court, Zuk scooped up the loose ball and sprinted down the floor for the eventual winning basket with 13 seconds left.

RPI had a pair of late chances in the lane, but tough shots from Blakemore and senior Jeremy Colon were off the mark.

Kates, who scored 16 of points in the first half, also played a game-high 38 minutes. A fast-break lay-up from Kates with 2:27 left in the opening frame gave the visitors their largest lead of the game at 30-19, but a late run from Rensselaer cut the deficit to 30-23 at the break.

A 9-0 RPI run to open the second half, highlighted by a straight-away three-pointer by Colon, gave the hosts a 32-30 lead with 14:22 remaining in the contest. Hollingsworth quickly evened things at 32-32, before Rensselaer seniors Tim Rupp and Philatre sank back-to-back baskets for a 36-32 advantage.

Rensselaer senior guard Eric Anderson nailed a three with 6:23, giving the hosts their largest lead of the game (45-40), but a pair of free throws from MIT sophomore Billy Bender and two more lay-ups by Kates put the visitors back on top by one (46-45).

Aiding Kates offensively was Hollingsworth, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. Bender added 11 points and six boards. RPI saw Philatre tally 10 points and seven rebounds to go along with a game-high four steals and a blocked shot. Freshman Daniel Martin came off the bench to record six points, four rebounds and a game-best five blocks.

Rensselaer is back in action on Tuesday, when it hosts Mount St. Mary at East Campus Arena (8pm). MIT visits Curry on Tuesday (8pm).