NORTON, Mass. - In a tight contest, in front of a packed house, WheatonCollege defended its home turf in the most critical conference game of the year by defeating MIT, 61-56, in the first round of the NEWMAC Men's Basketball Tournament. The Lyons (17-8) advance to the semifinals to face Springfield (21-5), while MIT (10-14) endures its first losing season since 2001.
The Lyons led most of the game, but the Engineers never allowed Wheaton to pull away. The Lyons led 27-20 with four minutes to play in the first half, before MIT closed with a 10-6 run that cut the deficit to 33-30 at halftime.
In the second half, Wheaton appeared poised to assert control by quickly extending its lead to nine. The Cardinal and Gray continued to display its resilience by keeping the deficit to single digits before making a final push of its own. Trailing by nine, MIT assembled a 10-2 run over the next four minutes that closed Wheaton's lead to 55-54 with remaining in the game.
MIT had a few chances to tie in the final minute, but two open looks from three-point range missed their marks, allowing the Lyons to ensure the win at the free-throw line.
Josean Vega led Wheaton with a game-best 22 points, including a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe. During the contest, Vega became the third men's basketball player in school history to surpass the 1,500-point milestone. Mike Stanton posted a double-double for the Lyons with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Senior Adam Gibbons scored 20 points to lead the Engineers. With 1,212 career point, Gibbons caps his MIT career ranked 12th all-time in scoring. He also retires among the career leaders in steals (3rd - 134) and assists (5th - 234).
Mike Huhs also closed out his MIT career with a tremendous game, narrowly missing a double-double. Securing 13 points and a team-best eight rebounds, Huhs also had two blocks that moved him into a tie for fifth on the all-time career blocks list (70).
Other Engineers making last-season moves that will etch their names in MIT lore include Danny Kanamori and Mike D'Auria. Kanamori scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in last night's tilt, but his 331 assists push him to second in the all-time rankings. With one season still left to play, D'Auria also is among the career leaders in assists, ranking fifth with 240.