Worcester, Mass. - March 1, 2009 - Despite a team-best 20 points from Pat Crean, the Springfield College men's basketball team's quest for a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament title came to an end on Sunday afternoon after falling to MIT, 76-50, in the championship game.
Jimmy Bartolotta drained a NEWMAC Tournament-best 37 points, including 21 in the first half, to lead second-seeded MIT to victory at WPI's Harrington Auditorium. The win marks the Engineers’ first NEWMAC title in their second appearance in the championship game.
MIT (20-8) earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, while Springfield sees its season come to an end with a record of 15-13.
Springfield began the game with a 5-2 lead in the opening three minutes, but Bartolotta responded with six straight points in 41 seconds to give MIT an early 8-5 lead that they would not relinquish. Crean and Ryan Blackmon each registered seven first-half points to keep the game close, but MIT’s outside shooting allowed them to push the advantage to double digits late in the frame. A Billy Johnson 3-pointer with 3:11 to go before intermission boosted the Engineer lead to 35-23 as the Engineers drained seven 3’s in the half. Blackmon responded with a three of his own however to send the Pride into the locker room down only nine points.
Crean continued to battle for Springfield in the second half, scoring 11 of the Pride's first 13 points after the break as they fought to climb back into the game. Crean's bucket with 17:21 to play cut MIT's lead to seven at 37-30, but Springfield could get no closer. MIT continued to convert on the offensive end to keep the Pride at bay, sinking 60% of their attempts from the floor in the second half (12-for-20). Johnson's three-pointer at 15:42 bumped MIT's lead back to double digits, where it would remain for the rest of the game.
The Engineers would extend their lead to 20 with 1:48 to play, wrapping up the conference championship. MIT would sink free throws late to reach the final margin.
Bradley Gampel dished out 10 assists for the NEWMAC champs, while Johnson scored 13 points despite battling foul trouble throughout the second half. Jamie Karraker added nine points to MIT's effort, while Eric Zuk pulled down a game-high 10 boards for the victors.
Crean paced Springfield with 20 points while Blackmon chipped in with seven. John Strawson recorded totals of five points, six rebounds and four assists in his final college game. Matthew Cavalieri contributed six points and five rebounds for Springfield in a loss.
MIT, which has competed in men’s basketball since 1901, will be making its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Brackets will be unveiled on Monday.