SALEM, Va. – No. 3 ranked MIT men's basketball team's 2011-12 season came to an end on Friday night with a 71-56 setback at the hands of the No. 8 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the NCAA Division III semifinals in Salem, Va. The Engineers, who set new Institute records for wins in a season and winning percentage while advancing to their first-ever Final Four, shot just 39.6% from the field in the loss. Tech finishes at 29-2 overall and made the trip to Salem in its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Junior Will Tashman (Atherton, Calif.) led the way for the Cardinal and Gray with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Junior Mitchell Kates (Colts Neck, N.J.) added 12 points, five boards and four assists in the loss. Seniors Billy Bender (The Woodlands, Texas) and Noel Hollingsworth (Salt Lake City, Utah) were also in double figures, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Freshman Paul Dawson (Stone Mountain, Ga.) provided a spark off the bench with five points in 11 minutes and some solid defensive play.
Senior Chris Davis (Madison, Wis.) was the star for the Warhawks, erupting for 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting and grabbing five caroms. Sophomore Eric Bryson (Elkhorn, Wis.) had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Tech was done in by a 6:31 scoring drought in the second half, during which time, Wisconsin-Whitewater outscored the Cardinal and Gray, 14-0, and took a lead it would not relinquish. After Kates' coast-to-coast layup at the 16:51 mark, MIT would not score again until a three-pointer by Bender with 10:20 to play. Davis accounted for eight of the 14 points for Whitewater during the spell.
After Bender's trifecta, sophomore Alex Merg (Greendale, Wis.) hit a pair of free-throws to push the lead back into double digits for good. MIT would get no closer than 11 the rest of the way. Davis' three-pointer from the top of the key with 4:01 to play gave the Warhawks their biggest lead of the night at 57-39.
"Wisconsin-Whitewater beat us today because they were the better team," Coach Larry Anderson said after the game. "On the offensive end, it was extremely tough for us to get good looks and there's a reason we shot such a low percentage."
"They're the best defensive team we've played all year," Anderson continued.
Wisconsin-Whitewater led by as many as seven in the first half, before Tech closed out the period on a 10-3 run to send the teams into the break knotted at 26. Bender knocked down a three-ball with 36 seconds remaining and Tashman got a put-back layup at the buzzer to even things up.
Both teams traded baskets early in the second before Kates took it end-to-end to put the Engineers on top 32-30.
"We're disappointed because our goal was to win a national championship," Anderson added postgame. "But we enjoyed the moment and what happened today does not put a damper on the season we had."
Tashman, who was named to the All-Tournament team after Saturday's final, added "You never want your season to end on a loss but almost every other team in the country does. It's good experience to get here [the Final Four] but it will help motivate us for next year."
Along with juniors Kates and Tashamn, Hollingsworth and fellow senior Jamie Karraker (Morgantown, W.Va.) are eligible to return next season, along with a host of underclassmen off the bench.