WORCESTER – Seniors Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA) and Aaron Todd (York, ME) combined for 22 first half points and classmate Dave Zielinski (Shelton, CT) sandwiched a free throw with a defensive and offensive rebound down the stretch to help WPI hold off Wheaton, 79-76, in a NEWMAC Men's Basketball matchup Saturday inside Harrington Auditorium.
While both teams end the day with an 11-8 overall ledger, the Engineers are now 5-3 and the Lyons are 3-5 in conference action.
Down by eight with 1:02 remaining in the second half, senior Liam Bruno (Newton, MA) and classmate Ryan Fogarty (Walpole, MA) worked around a free throw by Rodgers with 3-pointers to get the Lyons within three 15 seconds later. Zielinski made a free throw and grabbed the rebound off his second which eventually led to freshman Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA) getting to the line to make a pair. Junior David Carbonello (Windham, NH) kept Wheaton's hopes alive with a triple with .4 seconds left.
The Lyons claimed the early lead but a personal 4-0 spurt by Todd swung the pendulum toward the Engineers. Following a trio of missed 3-pointers by Wheaton, Zielinski knocked down a triple for the 7-2 advantage nearly four minutes in.
The guests later evened the score after a layup by sophomore Graham Lynch (Providence, RI) at 9:21. On the next possession, Rodgers drained a 3-pointer to begin a 5-0 run of his own. With 3:50 left until the break, Rodgers went on a 7-0 tear to push the lead to nine. Freshman Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ) moved the advantage into double digits with a triple as 1:02 showed on the scoreboard. A jumper by sophomore Alex DuBrow (Foxboro, MA) cut the Lyons deficit to 10 before the intermission.
Bruno converted an and-one to get the margin back to single digits 1:30 into the second; however, Zielinski hit a three at 17:39 to make it a 12-point game. Later in the frame, junior Duka Ekwensi (Morris Plains, NJ) went on a 6-0 personal run to get Wheaton within seven at 13:26. Prior to the last 62 seconds, the Lyons were able to get as close as five on a number of occasions.
Rodgers led the hosts with 22 points followed by Todd with a dozen, as well as a team-best five rebounds. Wheeler came off the bench to add 10 points. on 2-for-2 from downtown and 4-for-4 at the charity stripe, and Needleman handed out a career-best five assists.
Bruno totaled a game-high 24 points while Fogarty finished with 20. DuBrow chipped in with 10 points and four helpers. Ekwensi and junior Riley Tetreault (Walpole, MA) each hauled in a game-best six caroms.
The Engineers maintained margins of 30-20 in the paint, 25-14 off turnovers, 11-4 in second chance points, 4-2 on the fast break and 27-19 from the bench.
WPI heads down Park Ave Tuesday for the annual CharterTV3 game versus Clark. The game will be shown live at 7pm on channel 193 in Charter's Massachusetts footprint and 196 in Charter's Connecticut territory. Historically, fans out of the area have been able to see a TV3's feed via Clark's webcast. The Lyons, meanwhile, travel to Emerson for a 6pm contest Wednesday.