Comeback Bid Falls Short as WPI Holds Off MIT, 51-49

Freshman Liana Ilutzi
Freshman Liana Ilutzi

WORCESTER, Mass. – Trailing by 15 points with four minutes left to play, MIT came within two points twice during the final 23 seconds but could not overcome the deficit as host WPI held on for a 51-49 NEWMAC women's basketball victory on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Sabrina Drammis (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) produced a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Engineers whose ledger now stands at 6-9 on the year and 3-7 in league play.

Sophomore Durva Bhandare (North Brunswick, N.J.) posted eight points and three assists while freshman Liana Ilutzi (East Hanover, N.J.) registered seven points and a game-high four assists for MIT. Sophomore Maya Ramachandran (Fremont, Calif.) totaled eight boards, three assists, three steals, and two blocks as senior Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) chipped in six points. Junior Michelle Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.) bolstered the defense with five boards while classmate Osheiza Otori (Metairie, La.) tacked on five points.

Both sides struggled to convert on the offensive end throughout most of the first half, but WPI slowly built a 14-4 lead at the 7:39 mark. A free throw by Ilutzi almost three minutes later sparked a 9-2 spurt that brought MIT within three courtesy of a Battipaglia layup. WPI replied with a three-pointer and a layup inside the final minute to enter the intermission with a 21-13 advantage.

The Engineers opened the second stanza with buckets from Hunt and Bhandare; however, WPI rattled off 10 unanswered points to gain some breathing room. A basket by Hunt on MIT's ensuing possession fueled a 13-3 run that trimmed its deficit to 34-30 midway through the frame. Drammis accounted for six points while Otori recorded a three-point play and added two free throws during the run. WPI responded with a 15-4 run of its own which pushed its margin to 49-34 with 4:06 to go.

Exactly 10 seconds later, Drammis knocked down a jumper that ignited a string of 13 straight points while her three-pointer narrowed the gap to two (49-47) with 23 seconds remaining. The Cardinal and Gray quickly fouled but WPI converted both shots at the charity stripe. On its next trip down the court, a Drammis shot was off the mark; however, Ramachandran hauled in the rebound as Bhandare eventually drained a layup with four ticks on the clock. After an MIT timeout, the hosts inbounded the ball and did not relinquish it as they held on for the win.

MIT quickly returns to action as it will host NEWMAC rival Emerson College on Sunday, Jan. 19.