February 21, 2006

Defensive Power Carries MIT Past Babson, 49-40

Feb. 21, 2006

Box Score

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The most important player in Tuesday's first-round playoff of the NEWMAC Men's Basketball Tournament didn't have a single field goal and finished with one point. Returning from injury, sophomore Hamidou Soumare had five blocks and nine rebounds in the second half as No. 2-seed MIT (19-7) slipped by No. 7 Babson (9-17), 49-40, in a tight defensive struggle. With the win, the Engineers advance to the NEWMAC semi-finals on Saturday and will play No. 3-seed Coast Guard.

After already playing each other in two regular-season contests, it should have come as no surprise that head coach Stephen Brennan would have the Beavers ready to play for the upset. After senior Mike D'Auria opened the game with a three-point field goal, baskets would prove difficult to come by for the Cardinal and Gray. Fortunately, MIT's defense proved just as stout.

Babson's Brian Parsons and Tech's D'Auria served as the game's leading first-half scorers with seven points a piece, although Tuesday's game was truly defined by outstanding defensive pressure on both sides. The teams' uncharacteristically combined for 22 turnovers in the opening frame, while Babson answered MIT's shooting efficiency with a dominating effort on the glass (18-10). The Engineers led, 19-12, with just over three minutes remaining in the half, but Babson with an 8-3 run to cut the halftime deficit to, 22-20.

Both teams must have emphasized defense in the locker room, because the second half picked up right where the first left off; high energy and tremendous ball pressure. Trailing, 26-24, Zach Etten nailed a three for Babson to give the Beavers their first lead of the game, while Greg Bush followed with a lay-up on the next possession to stretch the lead to three with 16:49 to play.

Junior Alex Krull knotted the game at 29 with a three from the corner on Tech's ensuing possession, while D'Auria's jumper at 10:47 put the Engineers ahead for good. The Beavers kept the game close with a constant rotation of players that continued to out-work the Engineers on the glass and they trailed just 35-33 with seven minutes on the clock.

Just when MIT needed it most, someone stepped up on the defensive end to preserve the incredible effort. Soumare hadn't played in seven games, but the sophomore quickly turned Rockwell Cage into an explosive frenzy with hard blocks on multiple possessions. Soumare totaled five blocks in the final six minutes of the contest and reasserted control for MIT on the boards with nine caroms off the glass. D'Auria hit another jumper with just over three minutes remaining to give MIT a 41-33 lead, and while Brian Parsons connected on a bunny in the paint to keep the game well within striking distance, the Engineers' defense failed to allow any easy shots for Babson the rest of the way. MIT made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch en route to its first postseason win since 2004.

D'Auria led all scorers with 15 points, while rookie Jimmy Bartolotta tacked on nine.Four other players each scored six points for the Engineers, including Danny Kanamori, who added five assists and four steals. D'Auria also had four steals and Soumare closed with 10 boards to pace all rebounders.

Parsons finished with 12 for Babson and Etten added 11 as the Beavers concluded the season with their fourth straight loss.