WPI Basketball Looks for Revenge in Conference Tournament
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Last season, WPI coasted through conference play with only a single defeat. Their stellar conference season earned WPI the chance to host the NEWMAC Tournament, but the Engineers would not get to enjoy a championship on their home floor. Instead, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a team that WPI had defeated by a combined 27 points in their two regular-season meetings, came into Harrington Auditorium and upended WPI by a score of 63-52.
“(Beating MIT) would be pretty special, especially after last year,” senior guard David Brown said. “We know how disappointed we felt when it happened to us, and we know how bad we want it now. So to beat them this year would be something really special.”
Work still to be done
But WPI (18-6, 8-4 NEWMAC) faces a stiff test just to get to the finals. First up for the Engineers is Springfield (16-9, 7-5), a team WPI split their season series with this year, with each game decided in the final moments by a single basket or less. Springfield scored an impressive home overtime victory over WPI earlier this season, but the Engineers responded with a one-point home win less than three weeks later. Coach Chris Bartley appreciates the fact that his team wants some revenge against MIT, but believes they understand the challenge Springfield will present Saturday.
“To be honest, MIT has work to do to get to (the championship) game, and we’ve got work to do to get there,” Bartley said. “It’s really going to be about which team can put together 40 minutes of good basketball. We’ve had some really tough games with Springfield, and whatever happens after that, we’ll be ready for too."
Their "Big Man" needs a BIG weekend
If WPI is to win the NEWMAC Tournament, it will need a big weekend from senior center Matt Carr. The 6-foot-7 big man has led the Engineers in scoring this year with nearly 17 points per game, and has shot a remarkable 56 percent from the field. Carr is also the team’s rebounding leader, with over eight a game, and an Academic All American. Despite his solid season thus far, Carr insists that due to the size of MIT (23-1, 11-1), WPI will need physical games from guards like junior Marco Coppola and senior Jamie Shannon.
“Their front line is all guys that are around 6-foot-8,” Carr said. “It’s all going to come down to our physicality since we’re a bit undersized. Everyone’s going to need to be physical to keep them off the glass and out of position."
While it will be a tall task- pun intended- for WPI to take down MIT, they are the lone blemish on MIT’s otherwise perfect season, and have won in Cambridge. So, with an NCAA Tournament bid and revenge on the line, Shannon thinks WPI is up for the challenge.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Shannon said. “Especially in their gym. There would be nothing sweeter, absolutely nothing sweeter than cutting down the nets in their gym.”
WPI opens NEWMAC Tournament play Saturday at 3 p.m. If the Engineers are victorious, they will move on to the championship game scheduled for 1 p.m. the next day. Both games are set to tip-off inside MIT’s Rockwell Cage Gym in Cambridge.