Worcester, Mass. - February 14, 2018 - Despite falling behind by 18 points in the first half, the Springfield College men's basketball team put together a remarkable showing in the second half to rally past WPI for an 81-74 victory in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) play in Harrington Auditorium on Wednesday night.
Springfield, which was ranked sixth in the Northeast in the NCAA Regional Rankings that were released earlier this afternoon, improved to 17-7, 11-2. The 11 conference wins are the most that the Springfield men's basketball team has ever had in NEWMAC play. With the loss, WPI falls to 14-10, 8-5.
Jake Ross (Northampton, Mass.) led all players with 28 points as he went 10-of-15 from the field to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Classmate Heath Post (Cheshire, Conn.) had a huge night, totaling 22 points and seven boards, while Cam Earle (South Hadley, Mass.) scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Springfield finished the game shooting 26-for-48 (54%) and went 18-of-24 from the charity stripe.
For WPI, Chris Rodgers had 21 points and nine rebounds and teammate Jake Wisniewski added 16 points and nine boards of his own. The Engineers were 30-for-67 (45%) from the floor in the setback, including just 11-for-33 in the second half. WPI held a 34-29 edge on the boards and outscored Springfield 28-18 in the paint.
After WPI scored the first points of the game on a steal and fastbreak dunk by Rodgers, Post answered back with a triple for what would prove to be Springfield's only lead of the first half. WPI would push its lead to 16-8 just over five minutes into the game, and after a three from Andy McNulty (West Springfield, Mass.) pulled the Pride within five, WPI erupted for a 16-4 run over the next four-plus minutes to take a commanding 32-15 edge with 8:17 on the clock. The Engineers would lead by 18 on two occassions, the last coming at 40-22 with 4:04 remaining before Ross netted six-straight points to cue a 10-0 burst that pulled the visitors within eight, a run that was capped off by a pair of freebies from Post. WPI would go up by 14 with under a minute to play, but Post buried a trifecta in the final seconds to make it a 46-35 WPI lead at the half.
Springfield was tremendous out of the gate in the second half as the Pride delivered a 15-3 burst in the opening 6:29 to take its first lead since the 19:16 mark of the game after a jumper by Ross. An inside bucket by Andreas Bitsos allowed WPI to own its final lead of the evening at 51-50 as Earle answered with seven-straight points in the next 50 seconds, including a four-point play, to give the visitors a six-point edge with 10:17 left in regulation. Springfield would extend its advantage to 11 twice, the last time coming with 45 seconds remaining after Ross cashed in for two from the stripe. WPI made things interesting with back-to-back triples to pull within 77-72 with 26 ticks on the clock, but Ross and Post each knocked down a pair of free throws en route to the conference win.
Springfield will play for the regular-season title and the top seed in the upcoming NEWMAC Championship when it hosts Babson College in Blake Arena at 1 pm on Saturday.