Comeback Bid Falls Short as Wheaton Defeats MIT, 56-50

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Despite a pair of late rallies that brought MIT within three points with 6:32 left to play and four points with 23 seconds remaining in regulation, Wheaton College held on for a 56-50 victory in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) women's basketball game on Thursday night. In 40 minutes of action, Rachel Hunt compiled a game-high 14 rebounds and five blocks to go along with nine points for the Engineers (5-8, 1-6 NEWMAC). Gabbie DePalo went 5-of-8 from the floor for 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Lyons improved to 6-7 on the year and 3-4 in conference action.

The first half of the opening frame featured four ties as a three-point play by MIT's Rebecca Odim knotted the game at nine. Wheaton countered with eight unanswered points, resulting in a 17-9 advantage with 2:56 left in the half. Hunt ended the Engineers' scoring drought with a pair of free throws on their ensuing possession. A trey and a free throw later on by Hallie Vitagliano gave the Lyons' their first double-digit lead of the night at the 1:05 mark. A basket by Anna Merrfield cut the hosts deficit to 21-13 at the break.

Wheaton increased its margin to 12 (25-13) during the first two minutes of the second stanza, but the Engineers quickly cut their deficit in half courtesy of Hunt's four points and a layup by Merrfield. The Lyons used an 8-2 spurt to reestablish their comfortable cushion, moving the score to 33-21 with 13:50 on the clock.

Trailing by 11 points at the 8:15 mark, a Merrfield free throw followed by seven straight points by Lauren Sascha Burton during the next two minutes brought the Cardinal and Gray within three (39-36). Wheaton responded with an 11-2 run, resulting in its fourth 12-point lead of the night with 2:13 left to play. On MIT's next trip down the court, Tamara Pena buried a three which ignited a 12-4 rally and closed the gap to four (54-50) with 23 seconds remaining. A free throw by Trimboli and Gabby Barbera with 20 and 10 seconds on the clock, respectively, helped clinched the game for the visitors.

Merrifield led all scorers with 13 points while also grabbing eight rebounds. Burton tallied nine points, seven boards, three assists, and three steals as Pena totaled eight points, six rebounds, and three assists.

Barbera notched 10 points as she drained all three of her attempts from the behind the arc while also picking up six rebounds. Trimboli posted nine points and three assists while Colon Ortiz added eight rebounds and seven points. Nicole Cullinane dished out a game-high five assists in addition to registering four points on four free-throw attempts and two steals.

Both squads continue conference play on Saturday, Jan. 15. MIT will travel to Mount Holyoke College while Wheaton plays host to Smith College.