Second-Half Surge Powers MIT Past Wheaton, 81-62

Jan. 9, 2008

Box Score

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Junior Jimmy Bartolotta scored a game-high 28 points and added a game-best 10 rebounds, as MIT opened the conference portion of its slate with a 81-62 victory over streaking Wheaton College on Tuesday in Rockwell Cage. Bartolotta paced four MIT players in double figures and the Engineers benefited from a strong second-half run en route to the opening-night win in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC).

For the second straight game, junior Billy Johnson started the first half with a hot hand. Connecting on three triples in the first seven minutes of the game, MIT (9-4, 1-0) powered to a 16-6 lead. Five straight points off the bench by junior Kristopher Pedra pulled the Lyons within five, but a lay-up by Hamidou Soumare and a three-point field goal off the hand of Bartolotta extended the Engineers' advantage back to double figures (24-13) with 7:23 left in the frame.

Consecutive jumpers by freshman Ryan Sasso and a pair of free throws by fellow rookie Bud Gaffney brought Wheaton (9-2, 0-1) within six, but two free throws by Soumare and a last-second score by Bartolotta left MIT ahead, 37-27, at the halftime break. The first 20 minutes featured 16 points by Bartolotta while the Engineers held Wheaton's sharp-shooting attack to just 32.1% (9-of-28) in establishing the 10-point lead.

The second half started with both teams trading baskets, as MIT responded to baskets by Nick Michel and Jaxon Leo by breaking the press and picking up easy lay-ups on the other end. Never appearing to be out of the battle, the Lyons made their strongest push with 11:30 left in regulation as Bobby Perry buried a three to reduce the lead to 50-43.

Over the next five minutes, MIT orchestrated a 17-3 run highlighted by a thunderous fast-break dunk by Soumare off an assist from Bartolotta. The Engineers connected on 7-of-8 attempts at the free-throw line during that same span and forced Wheaton into four turnovers.

The Engineers maintained at least an 18-point lead for the remainder of the night and led by as many as 23 (79-56) after Daniel McCue canned two free throws with 2:00 left on the clock. Wheaton, which entered Tuesday on a six-game winning streak, secured back-to-back three-point plays from Brent DiGiovanna and Randy Casey in the waning moments of the contest, but not before MIT secured its sixth straight win at home to open the campaign.

Bartolotta added a game-high four steals to his offensive totals while Soumare finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Johnson and freshman Daniel McCue added 11 points with McCue's off-the-bench performance serving as a career high.

Rookie Anthony Coppola led Wheaton with 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting. DiGiovanna added nine points, seven rebounds and two assists in a terrific effort off the bench. Sasso and Perry chipped in eight points a piece.

Although Wheaton shot the ball better in the second half, it finished the game shooting 37.5% from the floor including 5-of-22 (22.7%) from beyond the arc. The Cardinal and Gray shot 49.1% from the field and finished 23-of-30 (76.7%) from the charity stripe.