December 1, 2007

Streaking MIT Falters at Tufts, 83-67

Dec. 1, 2007

Courtesy Tufts Sports Information

MEDFORD, Mass. - Down by 12 to MIT in the first half, the Tufts men's basketball team rallied to tie the score at halftime and surged past the Engineers in the second half for an 83-67 victory on Saturday afternoon at Cousens Gym. Junior Jon Pierce led the Jumbos with 18 points as all five starters scored in double figures.

The Jumbo win snapped a five-game winning streak for MIT (5-2) and evened the host's season record at 2-2, while the victory also served as the 10th straight for Tufts in the series between the neighboring rivals.

MIT used a 14-4 run in the middle of the first half to turn a two-point lead into a 32-20 advantage with 7:37 left in the period. Junior Billy Johnson scored seven points during the stretch, including two three-pointers to get it going.

MIT's Jimmy Bartolotta and Hamidou Soumare found themselves plagued by foul trouble after building the large, early lead. With two of MIT's top players on the bench, Tufts turned it around from there with its own 14-4 run to pull within 36-34 at 2:47 on a lay-up by Pierce. Senior guard Jeremy Black had two three-pointers during the stretch. MIT got the lead back up to five entering the final minute of the half, but the Jumbos scored five late and it was 39-39 at the break.

Tufts opened the half with back-to-back lay-ups by junior Aaron Gallant to lead 43-39. Three-pointers by Pierce and Black put the margin at eight (49-41), but MIT scored nine of the next 10 points to tie it up at 50-50 with 12:25 remaining. Bartolotta, who finished the game playing a season-low 19 minutes, scored seven of the points.

The teams went back and forth for the next four minutes, but then Black hit a big three at the eight-minute mark for a 60-56 Tufts lead. That was part of a 17-2 Jumbo stretch led by Black and Pierce that gave them control of the game. With a three by Pierce at 3:50 Tufts was ahead 72-58. A three-pointer by Johnson and a lay-up by Soumare brought MIT within nine (72-63), but a Gallant lay-up put the Tufts lead back in double-digits and that's where it stayed.

Pierce added eight rebounds to his 18 points for Tufts. Black hit five of Tufts' 10 three's in the game and finished with 16 points, nine assists and four steals. Gallant struck for a career-high 15 points and senior tri-captain Ryan O'Keefe was hot early and totaled 13 points and six rebounds.

Bartolotta entered the game averaging 27.3 points, but an early injury and the foul trouble never enabled the junior star to get into a groove. He still managed to finish with a game-tying high of 18 points. Soumare chipped in 17 and Johnson had the game's only double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

After scoring 32 points in the first 12+ minutes, the Engineers were held to 35 points over the final 28 minutes. Their 54.5 percent shooting in the first half slipped to 35.5 in the second half. The rebounds and free throws were even, but the Engineers committed 23 turnovers compared to 14 by the Jumbos.