After the Pride’s 76-70 loss to Wheaton on Thursday, the team’s chances of securing the No. 1 seed in the NEWMAC playoffs momentarily came into doubt. The team needed a big win against MIT to keep sole possession of first place conference, and they didn’t disappoint.
Andy McNulty scored 23 points in Springfield’s 69-62 win over MIT on Saturday. Jake Ross pitched in 20 total points after being held to five points in the first half.
The Engineer’s Nacho Nwana did a great job defending Ross all game, especially in the first half. Whether Ross had the ball or not, Nwana rarely gave him any space all night. His off-ball defense hindered Ross’ ability to find open teammates, which is what he usually does with a good defender.
The Engineers started to clamp down on the Pride around the eight-minute mark of the first half. The Engineers’ ball movement left Pride defenders snapping their heads back forth while running through high screens to defend the likes of Cameron Corb and Ian Hinkley. The stretch led to a 25-19 deficit midway through the half.
McNulty’s efficiency from beyond the arc (4-6 from three-point range in the first half) and 14 first half points helped keep Springfield afloat. MIT led at the intermission, 31-30.
“It was great,” said Pride head coach Charlie Brock on McNulty’s performance. “I think he is going to get situations where he is open because they (opponents) are going to go overboard maybe on Jake (Ross). The green light was there and he knows that.”
McNulty finished the game with five total three-pointers, tying his career-high.
At the start of the second half, it was evident that the Pride made some key adjustments. Springfield started the half on a 11-0 run to push themselves ahead, 41-31.
The run could not have come at a better time.
“It was just one more pass, one more exchange, one more screen,” said Brock. “We ended up playing a really competitive game with 11 turnovers. It was two great teams going at it. We were defensively able to hold them down percentage-wise well below what they are accustomed to.”
Springfield played much better offensively in the second half compared to the first, but defensively still left some players open in the corner for open jump shots.
With 1:20 left in the game, Cam Earle received a cross-court pass from Ross in the corner. Earle didn’t hesitate and scored a three-pointer to increase the Pride’s lead, 62-55.
The final moments of the game came down to free throws. Ross and McNulty came up big at the line to pull the Pride away from the Engineers and solidify the important conference win.
The win marks the programs third over a nationally ranked team this season and says a lot about what the team is capable of achieving.
“I think we are good,” said Brock .I don’t pay any attention to that (national) ranking. The one I care about is what we do in the league and where we end up at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.”
With the regular season coming to a close, the Pride have big opponents in WPI and Babson left to play.
“I look at every game like a playoff game now,” said McNulty “That is how we have to treat them because every opponent is good from here on out.”
Springfield’s next game is against WPI on Wednesday.