WORCESTER – Sophomore Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA) was a rebound shy of a double-double in the first half and went on to tie his career-bests of 17 points and 10 rebounds without a turnover and senior Aaron Todd (York, ME) shared game-high honors with a career-best 21 points as fourth-seeded WPI advanced to its 15th consecutive NEWMAC Men's Basketball Championship semifinal with a 95-76 victory over fifth-seeded Wheaton Wednesday night in Harrington Auditorium.
The Engineers (15-11) will take on top-seeded Springfield, who will be making its 16th overall semifinal appearance, Saturday at 1pm in Blake Arena while the Lyons, who were seeking their 10th semifinal appearance and first since 2008, close out the season with a 16-10 ledger. It was the third time the programs met in the NEWMAC tournament with WPI completing the cycle by defeating the Lyons in a final (2005), semifinal (2006) and quarterfinal (2018).
Freshman Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) also scored a season-best 14 points to go with a dozen each by senior Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA) and freshman Reid Walker (Lithia, FL). Freshman Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ) was efficient with nine points on 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Rodgers and Walker also handed out four assists apiece.
Wheaton senior Ryan Fogarty (Walpole, MA) also netted 21 points while classmate Liam Bruno (Newton, MA) followed with 20 and junior Duaka Ekwensi (Morris Plains, NJ) added 17 points. Bruno hauled in seven boards and Fogarty chipped in with five.
After trading early baskets, WPI jumped out to an 11-6 advantage only to see Wheaton even it up at 11-all with 14:48 left in the first. The Engineers began to pull away and owned a 24-point margin with just under a minute to play in the half. Sophomore Alex DuBrow (Foxboro, MA) cut the Lyons deficit to 21 with a triple 19 seconds later for the 54-33 score at the break. WPI shot 60 percent from the field (46.2 from downtown) while Wheaton was 56 percent overall and 55.6 from beyond the arc.
The difference remained in the 20s most of the second half until Ekewnsi drilled a trey to get Wheaton within 19 with 4:43 to go. A pair of free throws by Forgarty and one by sophomore Niles Cohen (Cambridge, MA) got the Lyons deficit to down to 17 before McNamara sank a late layup for his career-high and the 95-76 final. WPI ended up shooting 60.7 percent overall and 42.9 percent from 3-point land for the game while Wheaton was 52.9 percent from short and long range.
The Engineers benefitted by scoring 17 of the 19 points off turnovers and 11 of the 19 second chance points while also enjoying a 48-26 margin in the paint and 33-8 advantage from the reserves.