Feb. 25, 2009
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - MIT men's basketball slipped past Coast Guard, 66-62, in the quarterfinal round of the NEWMAC Championship Tournament with a pair of freshmen fueling the victory. Wednesday's physically-driven defensive battle went to overtime following a baseline jumper by unheralded rookie Billy Bender with two seconds left in regulation. With the game tied in the extra session, freshman Jamie Karraker sank the pivotal shot with a three from the corner.
Senior Jimmy Bartolotta paced MIT (18-8) with 21 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, and three steals, although the star guard endured his worst shooting performance of the season. Billy Johnson added 16 points and eight boards, Karraker dropped in 15, and Bender finished with eight points and three steals.
Craig Johnson once again powered Coast Guard (12-13) with 19 points and a game-high 14 caroms, while Jevon James also notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Trip Fernandez also reached double digits for the Bears with 11 points.
The Bears (12-13), whose last loss in the NEWMAC Tournament was three years ago to the day against MIT (18-8), rallied to take control of the game after falling behind 32-16 with 4:45 left in the first half. Despite the big deficit, Coast Guard showed incredible resiliency by upping its defensive pressure. The Engineers tired after the hot start and the Bears closed the first half on an 11-2 run to reduce the Tech advantage to 34-27 at the half.
MIT's offensive struggles continued in the second half, while Coast Guard ripped off the first six points of the frame to take their first lead of the night with 17 minutes left on the clock. Back-to-back jumpers by Billy Johnson and Billy Bender pushed MIT in front, 38-35, but over the course of the next 10 minutes, the Bears orchestrated a 15-5 run. Craig Johnson was dominant in the paint during the stretch, while Tripp Fernandez canned a pair of jumpers.
The Bears took their largest lead of the tilt at 50-43 with 5:41 remaining off an offensive rebound and put back by Johnson. After trading baskets, Karraker pulled MIT within four with a deep three. Stefan Lewis stroked a smooth pull-back jumper from the wing to up the lead to six, but Billy Johnson answered immediately with another three. On MIT's next possession and 1:06 remaining in the game, Bartolotta tied the game at 54-54 after sinking three free throws. Jevon James drained a pair of free throws on the Bears' last offensive opportunity, but Bender continued MIT's season with an uncontested jumper that ignited the home crowd.
Eric Hudson gave Coast Guard an early lead in overtime with a fast-break lay-up. Bartolotta responded with four straight points for the Engineers before Craig Johnson made another strong move in the lane and tied the game at sixty. With 2:26 left in the period, Karraker received a kick-out from Bartolotta and knocked it home for the three-point lead. Stefan Lewis converted two free throws with a minute remaining to pull the Bears back within one, but Bartolotta scored three consecutive points at the charity stripe to seal the postseason win.
MIT advances to the NEWMAC semifinals and will face Babson at 6:30 on Saturday in WPI's Harrington Auditorium. In the earlier semifinal, top-seed WPI will face Springfield.