February 2, 2008

Rookie Trio Paces Wheaton Victory Over MIT, 84-81

Feb. 2, 2008

Box Score

Courtesy Wheaton Sports Information

NORTON, Mass. - Three freshmen combined for 51 points, and the Wheaton College men's basketball team broke out of a late tie to down MIT, 84-81 on Saturday in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) play at Emerson Gymnasium. The Lyons, who avenged an 81-62 loss suffered in Cambridge on January 9, improved to 12-6 overall and 3-4 in league action, moving into a tie for third in the conference standings. MIT fell to 12-8 and 3-4.

Early on, MIT rallied from an early 8-4 deficit with eight straight points, as freshman Daniel McCue canned a three to cap the run at 15:21 of the opening half. Wheaton countered, as freshman Bobby Perry nailed two three-pointers 2:49 apart to knot the game at 12 and then at 17. After an MIT hoop, the Lyons scored eight straight points during 1:32, with freshman Ryan Sasso scoring the first five points. Wheaton led by a 25-19 count, with 21 points coming from Perry, Sasso and classmate Anthony Coppola.

After two lay-ups by MIT freshman Michael Zieve and a three-pointer by junior Jimmy Bartolotta brought the visitors within 27-26, Wheaton scored 14 of the next 18 points during a 4:16 span. Coppola knocked down a three and a jumper to begin the scoring before hitting a trey from five feet beyond the arc and scoring on a fast break to cap the run. Six straight MIT points made it 41-36, but Wheaton junior Kristopher Pedra hit a three just before the buzzer sounded to send the hosts into the locker room ahead, 44-36. Coppola hit all six of his field goal tries, including three from downtown, to finish the first half with 16 points. Sasso had nine and Perry added eight, as the Lyons shot 60 percent, including 9-of-12 on two-point tries. Bartolotta led MIT with 10, while the Engineers shot 50 percent.

Pedra's first-half three ignited a 14-0 Wheaton run, as sophomore Jaxon Leo scored six points and Sasso five during the opening minutes of the second half. The Lyons held a 55-36 lead at 16:42, but MIT responded with a 19-4 run over the next 5:08. Only three Engineers scored during that time, with junior Hamidou Soumare's eight points leading the way.

The Lyons saw their lead dwindle to 59-55 at 11:12, but Perry hit a jumper before Coppola nailed a three, and the lead was back to nine. The next five MIT points came on Soumare free throws, and Bartolotta drained a three from the top of the key at 4:16, forcing a 72-all tie. Senior Jake Otto snapped the stalemate 24 seconds later, hitting two free throws to give Wheaton the lead for good. The hosts stretched their advantage out to six three times, but MIT senior Alex Bagley's three-point play with 6.3 seconds left brought the Engineers within 82-79. Leo followed with two freebies to ice the win, as Wheaton hit each of its six free throw tries during the final 23 ticks, and its final 10 attempts of the game.

Coppola was Wheaton's leading scorer for the 12th time this season, netting 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He added a game-high seven rebounds. Sasso and Perry were each one point shy of matching their career highs, turning in 16 and 12, respectively. Sasso went 5-of-5 on free throws, while Perry shot 4-of-5 with two three-pointers and three assists off the bench. Leo added 12 points and two blocks, while junior Nick Michel swatted three shots. Wheaton hit 21-of-25 freebie tries.

Bartolotta led all players with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including three threes, and a game-best six assists to go along with two blocks. Soumare was 7-of-10 from the field and 7-of-9 at the charity stripe while netting 21 points and snagging six boards. Bagley and McCue turned in 13 points apiece, with McCue hitting three threes.