Cambridge, MA --- Led by a combined 47 points from junior captains AJ Jurko (Weston, FL) and Cameron Korb (Los Gatos, CA), the MIT men's basketball team closed out the regular season with a 71-59 home win over WPI on Saturday afternoon in Rockwell Cage.
The host Engineers (20-5, 10-4 NEWMAC), who were No. 9 in the latest NCAA Regional Rankings, sweep the regular-season series from WPI (14-11, 8-6) and have now defeated their rivals in six straight meetings.
MIT jumped out to a quick lead at 9-6 after the first of five Jurko three-pointers on the day. The Engineers extended the lead out to 12 at 30-18 with 7:58 left in the half after another Jurko three, but saw that lead cut back to 10 moments later on the second dunk of the day from WPI senior Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA).
WPI sliced the advantage down to eight with 4:46 remaining after a layup from senior Aaron Todd (York, ME), but MIT closed the half with a 9-2 spurt to seize a 41-26 advantage at the break. MIT shot 60.9 percent from the field in the first half, including 60 percent from three (9-for-15), to stake to the double-digit lead.
In the second half, the lead stood at 53-36 with 14:30 on the clock after a pair of free throws from sophomore Nacho Nwana (White Plains, NY). WPI countered with a 13-1 run over the next 5:45 though, including a pair of layups by sophomore Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA), to make it a 54-49 game heading into the final 8:45 of action.
A WPI three from Rodgers with 5:23 remaining put the lead at just four at 61-57 and it remained that way for nearly the next two minutes. MIT freshman Ian Hinkley (Raleigh, NC) connected on a three from the corner though late in the shot clock, pushing the hosts edge back to 64-57 as MIT called a timeout with 3:44 left. Rodgers hit two free throws for WPI at the 3:29 mark to pull back within five, but the host Engineers hit five throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Jurko nearly had another double-double as he finished with a game-high 24 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three. He also finished with a game-high nine assists and now has 23 over his last two games. Korb also hit five threes, en route to 23 points, as he was also 8-for-9 at the free throw line. As a team, MIT shot 53.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three while outrebounding WPI 27-24.
WPI was paced by 17 points and eight rebounds from Rodgers as the Engineers shot 45.1 percent from the field, 72.7 percent from the free throw line and turned MIT over 17 times. WPI also outscored MIT by a 32-10 margin in the paint and 21-7 from the bench.
The fourth-seeded Crimson and Gray host fifth-seeded Wheaton Wednesday at 7:30pm while third-seeded MIT takes on second-seeded Babson in the semifinals on Saturday at top-seeded Springfield beginning at 3:30pm.
Majority release courtesy MIT
2018 NEWMAC Men's Basketball Championship
Quarterfinal, Wednesday, February 21st (at WPI)
No. 5 Wheaton at No. 4 WPI – 7:30 p.m.
Semifinals, Saturday, February 24th (at Springfield)
Quarterfinal Winner at No. 1 Springfield – 1:00 p.m.
No. 2 Babson vs. No. 3 MIT – 3:30 p.m.
Finals, Sunday, February 25th (at Springfield)
Semifinal Winners – 1:00 p.m.