Smothering Defense Keys MIT's Come-from-Behind Win over Simmons

Freshman Mari Kordell
Freshman Mari Kordell

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A 36-13 run during the final 10 minutes of regulation powered MIT's 69-65 come-from-behind victory over Simmons College in a non-conference women's basketball game on Friday afternoon. Freshman Mari Kordell (Ijamsville, Md.) led all scorers with 23 points as the Engineers improved to 7-3 on the year. Senior Brittany Dolloff (Hollis, N.H.), one of four Sharks to reach double-digits in scoring, posted 15 points and four steals for the visitors (1-7).

MIT's second-half rally was generated and sustained by a smothering defense that forced eight turnovers which resulted in 13 points. Sophomore Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and freshman Michelle Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.) combined for five blocks while the squad notched six defensive rebounds and three steals.

Simmons established a 7-3 lead after 2:30 expired, but MIT responded with six straight points to go ahead, 9-7, at 13:49. A pair of ties and lead changes ensued with a Kordell free-throw evening the score at 12 midway through the frame. Freshman Shae Riley's (Sanford, Maine) three-pointer sparked a 13-2 run to give the Sharks some breathing room as they later entered halftime with a 35-23 advantage with sophomore Hannah May (Hamden, Conn.) burying a trey right before the buzzer.

Simmons carried the momentum into the second stanza as a 9-2 spurt resulted in its largest lead of the day at 19 points (44-25) at the 15:52 mark. The Engineers rattled off eight unanswered points over the course of the next three minutes; however, a pair of three-pointers from sophomore Leah Davis (Cranston, R.I.) and a layup by senior Jessica Thomas (Sandwich, Mass.) returned the Sharks' margin to 19 (52-33) with 10:30 on the clock.

On the Cardinal and Gray's ensuing possession, sophomore Tamara Pena (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) buried a three-pointer to ignite a 25-5 run during the next eight minutes as a steal and layup by Battipaglia put the hosts in front, 58-57, with 2:33 to go. A steal by Thomas later put her at the line where she converted the second of her two free-throw attempts to even the score. MIT then scored six points in a row, four coming off turnovers, to claim a 64-58 advantage with 1:08 on the clock.

Simmons continued to attack as May cut its deficit in half courtesy of a trifecta with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. A foul put Kordell at the line where she hit the first of her two shots, increasing the Engineers' cushion to 65-61 with 16.4 to play. Senior Alex Acloque (Randolph, Mass.) grabbed the miscue which eventually resulted in a basket by Thomas with nine seconds left on the clock. Following a timeout by Simmons, Pena was fouled on the in-bounds pass and then sank both shots from the charity stripe. Davis sprinted down the court, draining a layup with four seconds remaining to once again narrow the gap to two. The Sharks quickly fouled Kordell who hit both free throws to clinch the win for MIT.

Pena finished with 18 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists, and two steals as Hunt totaled eight boards, seven points, four blocks, and a steal. Coming off the bench, Battipaglia recorded 10 points, seven rebounds, three blocks, and two steals.

Junior Liz O'Connor (Milton, Mass.) tallied 13 points, nine rebounds, and two assists for the Sharks while Thomas registered 12 points, seven caroms, and three assists. Davis added 10 points and two steals as May chipped in six points.

Next up for MIT will be a NEWMAC contest at Smith College on Wednesday, Jan. 4 while Simmons continues non-conference action with a home game against Mount Holyoke College on Monday, Jan. 2.