There’s still plenty to be sorted out before the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men’s basketball playoffs begin.
As of right now, the MIT Engineers are in the driver’s seat. With an 8-1 conference record (20-1), MIT is poised to host this year’s NEWMAC Championship.
The Engineer’s lone loss came at the hands of WPI, a team Springfield has beaten once already and has a chance to complete the season sweep on the road this Saturday.
Sean Martin led Springfield to an emotional 65-63 win in overtime over WPI with a buzzer beating lay-up inside Blake Arena on Jan. 25.
Last Saturday, however, is a day the Pride would like to have back. In a 69 – 67 loss at home to MIT, Springfield had two chances to take the lead with under two minutes to play.
However, a turnover with 1:06 remaining in the game gave MIT’s Jamie Karraker a chance to break a 62-62 tie. The clutch senior hit a three pointer with 40 seconds left, giving MIT the lead for good.
Unfortunately for players like Ryan Coburn and Evan Christner, the only two four-year players on this year’s roster, it was the eighth time they have been beaten by MIT in the regular season.
MIT also knocked the Pride out of the NEWMAC tournament last season in Worcester.
For a team that hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 1, Saturday was quickly put in the rearview mirror. The annual clash with cross-town rival Western New England was the perfect way to get back on track.
Despite a tough first half that saw Springfield head to the lockers with a slim three-point advantage, the Pride buckled down defensively in the second half.
Springfield turned 15 turnovers into 27 points, 17 of those points coming in the second half, and pulled away late in the second half.
Alex Berthiaume led the way with 30 points, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Freshman Nick Sienkiewicz shot an outstanding 6-for-6 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and finished with 14 of his own.
“The biggest thing, one we really have to resolve, is getting off to a slow start,” said Brock. “Going back against WPI, the first seven possessions, we had two turnovers in there.
“You can’t have that against good teams. And if we expect to do anything in the playoffs and in anything beyond that, we’re good enough. If you look at the plays, if we have three or four or five more plays during the year, then we have three or four or five more wins and we’re in the NCAA tournament.”
“We just have to resolve those things, and there is a lot of basketball left to play.”
After a grinding week, Springfield has four days to recover and prepare for WPI. Big man Matt Carr dominated Springfield down low in the last meeting and finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
“[Tuesday] was a much needed day off just for mental and physical health,” said Brock. “In these three days, we’re going to make a few adjustments. It’s the same things we run but use some dribble swings to get some different ways of doing the same thing with different people.”
“[WPI] will be studying us. Their assistant coach was one of ours so he knows how we run things.”
The win would boost Springfield’s conference record to 7-3 with two games remaining against Clark and Wheaton.
WPI travels to Wheaton this Wednesday looking to avenge a 65 – 51 loss earlier this season.
Corey Hanlon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org