CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Sophomore Tim Butala (Monroe, Conn.) hit back-to-back shots in overtime to help No. 16 MIT edge Tufts University in a tough, physical battle, 71-64, in nonconference men's basketball action. The Jumbos overcame a late five-point lead by the Engineers to force overtime, but Butala's baskets and four straight free throws from junior Ryan Frankel (New York, N.Y.) in the final 14 seconds to clinched it.
Butala got MIT (3-0) off to a good start with a three to start the scoring in the game. The Engineers defense forced five early turnovers by Tufts (2-3) to keep the Jumbos at bay, and when Frankel hit on a layup at the 13:48 mark MIT found itself up 12-2. The Engineers still led by 10 at 14-4 when Tufts saw freshman Vincent Pace (Bridgewater, N.J.) hit a jumper that started a 13-0 run for the Jumbos. Sophomore Tom Palleschi (Haverhill, Mass.) completed the run with back-to-back jump shots to give Tufts its first lead of the night, 17-14.
A jump shot by sophomore Tarik Smith (Bronx, N.Y.) had Tufts up by four with 4:45 left in the half, but back-to-back treys by junior Justin Pedley (Kennewick, Wash.) pushed MIT back in front by four with a minute left in the half. Tufts got a free throw from junior Stephen Haladyna (South Hamilton, Mass.) in the final minute, but that was it for scoring in the half as the Engineers took a 27-24 lead into the locker room.
MIT quickly moved out to a seven-point lead on a three-point play by senior Andrew Acker (Merion Station, Pa.) at 37-30, but a trey from junior Ryan Spadaford (Rockville Center, N.Y.) prevented the Engineers from pulling away. MIT maintained a seven-point edge at the midway mark of the half on a pair of free throws from freshman Spencer Rust (Alamo, Calif.), but Tufts used a quick 5-0 run to pull back within a pair on a three-point play by Haladyna.
Tufts kept chipping away and with 5:30 left another three-point play, this time by Pace, put the Jumbos on top for the first time in the second half at 52-51. Senior Dennis Levene (Weston, Conn.) then scored six points of an 8-2 run that put MIT back on top, 59-54, when he converted a three-point play with 2:52 to go. A three-pointer by senior Ben Ferris (Essex Junction, Vt.) got Tufts right back in it, and with a minute left a pair of free throws by sophomore Hunter Sabety (Oceanside, N.Y.) tied the game at 59-all. MIT had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but a layup attempt by Butala was blocked by Sabety to send the game to overtime.
Sabety scored the first two points in the extra session on a pair of free throws, but Frankel answered with his trey that put MIT back on top. Sabety gave the Jumbos the lead again at 63-62 on a dunk, only to see Pedley tie things up again on a free throw with 2:11 left. Butala then hit on back-to-back shots before a pair of Frankel free throws with 14 seconds left made it 69-63. Frankel then canned two more in the final seconds to seal the win for the Engineers.
Levene led MIT with 20 points and eight rebounds, with Frankel finishing with 16 points and five assists. Pedley and Butala each finished with 13 for the Engineers, who shot 46.8 percent in the game. Tufts, which shot 39.7 percent from the floor, was led by 18 points and nine rebounds from Sabety. Pace added 13 points, five assists, and four steals, while Palleschi contributed 10 points and nine rebounds. The Jumbos out rebounded the Engineers by a 40-34 margin.
MIT will take a few days off for the Thanksgiving break before returning to the court on Saturday when the Engineers will host Fitchburg State at 1:00 p.m. Next up for Tufts will be WPI, whom the Jumbos will host on December 3 at 7:00 p.m.