Blake Arena was filled with a lot more noise and energy on Saturday evening than it had all season long as the Springfield College Pride hosted the Engineers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a NEWMAC conference rivalry match-up. Six-hundred people filed into the stands to see the Pride take on the fifth best team in the nation in MIT, only to see Springfield fall 69-67.
The Pride are now 14-7 while MIT (20-1) notched its 20th victory of the season.
MIT got off to a great start against Springfield with a 4-0 run until Springfield’s Sean Martin hit a couple of free throws and freshman Nick Sienkiewicz added a jump shot at the top of the key to tie the game. From that point on, both teams went back-and-forth in scoring. Within the first nine minutes of the game, there were three ties and five lead changes until the Engineers went on a 13-0 run that was led by Nowell Hollingsworth and Will Tashman. Springfield, however, was able to answer with a 6-0 run themselves but was unable to stop the MIT offense from scoring which caused the Pride to go into half time down 39-29.
At the half, the Pride knew that they needed to make some big adjustments if they wanted to make a comeback against one of the best teams in the country.
“We knew we needed to get their big guys in foul trouble,” said Martin, who finished with 13 points. “We just took it to the hoop a lot more aggressive.”
The strong defense and more patient scoring by Springfield in the second half resulted in a 13-0 run led by Jordan Rote, who scored five points in just two minutes during their scoring run. The Pride were also able to cut the MIT lead down multiple times throughout the second half until Martin was able to lay the ball in with 3:48 left in the game to give Springfield a one point lead (62-61), their first since the score was 11-9.
“We were just a little bit more patient offensively,” said Springfield College head coach Charlie Brock.
But the MIT offense was just too much for the Pride. Shortly after Martin’s layup, Mitchell Kates hit a three-point shot for MIT to put the Engineers up 64-62 with 3:25 left. Yet, Robbie Burke made two free throws to tie the game with 2:20 remaining before Jamie Karraker followed with a three-point shot with 40 seconds remaining. The senior then made two free throws to seal the victory for MIT.
In the second half, the Pride scored 14 points in the paint, had 10 second chance points, and forced four MIT players to commit three or more personal fouls throughout the game.
Springfield also made an adjustment on defense by not allowing any of MIT’s bench players to score throughout the entire second half. They also out-rebounded MIT 30-26 even though the Engineers held a clear height advantage.
Springfield also held MIT to only three offensive rebounds while picking up 11 offensive boards themselves.
Brock feels that the Pride are right where they want to be after losing only by two to a MIT team who has only suffered one loss this whole season.
“Hopefully we’ll see them again. I think we can win that game,” said Brock.
When asked after the game if the size of his players made an impact on their win, MIT head coach Larry Anderson said, “I think size sometimes can be overrated. I think it’s the size of the heart that makes teams play the way they play.”
Martin felt the game was good motivation for games to come in the future.
“We came out really excited and ampt, but they kept playing their type of basketball,” said Martin. “They’re a big physical team and they beat us up for a while. Anytime you play a team like MIT real close, you definitely take good things away from it.”
Springfield College’s next game is at home on Monday, Feb. 6 against Western New England at 7:00 PM.
Kyle Pegalo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org