Norton, Mass. - January 13, 2011 - The Springfield College men's basketball team dropped its first conference game of the season to rival Wheaton College, 63-61, on Thursday evening in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action. The Pride had its six-point lead evaporate over the final 2:31 before Wheaton used two free-throws with 3.5 seconds remaining to complete the comeback win.
The win boosts Wheaton's record to 6-7, 2-1 in league play, while the Pride drop to 9-6, 2-1. It marks just Springfield's third loss in its last 12 contests.
Billy Harkins netted 11 points, going 9-10 from the free-throw line, to go along with five steals for the Pride, while Matt Cavalieri was held to a season-low 11 points in the loss. Cavalieri posted a game-best six rebounds, and Ryan Coburn added nine points. Pat Rossi came off the bench to contribute eight points, while both Jordan Rote and Trevor DiMicco tallied seven points.
As a team, the Pride shot 46.2% (18-39) from the floor, including an incredible 60.0% (12-20) in the first 20 minutes of play. For the game, Springfield finished 20-for-25 from the charity stripe.
Anthony Coppola paced the hosts with a game-high 24 points as he connected on 7-of-16 from the field, including a 5-11 performance from beyond the arc. Brendan Degnan was the only other Lyon to score in double figures as he posted 15 points, including the game-winning free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining. Wheaton finished the game with 12 three-pointers, accounting for 67% of their made field goals in the game.
With the teams tied at 18-18 midway through the first period, the Pride used a 17-7 run to build a 10-point lead (35-25) with just 1:18 remaining. Springfield's Cavalieri notched five points during the stretch, while the visitors held Wheaton to just two field goals in over 10 minutes of play. Degnan closed the gap for the Lyons over the final minute of play, connecting on two free throws and then hitting a three at the buzzer to send the game into the locker room with Springfield holding on to a 35-30 lead.
Wheaton erased the deficit early in the second half, opening with a 12-1 run to take a 42-36 lead with 14:51 remaining. Springfield inched back to tie the contest at 51-51 after a Rossi jumper at 8:23, and then used solid free-throw shooting to once again open a lead, this time going up six points with 2:31 left on the clock.
Wheaton's comeback started when Coppola hit a three to cut the deficit in half, grabbed a defensive rebound and then sank two free throws to move the score to 59-58 with 1:43 left. After Springfield's Harkins converted both of his free throws to again have the visitors go ahead by three, Degan's trey tied it at 61-61 with just over a minute remaining. The Pride had a chance to go ahead by two with :28 ticks on the clock, but Degnan grabbed the defensive board to give Wheaton it's final possession and set up his game-winning free-throws. A desperation jumper from Springfield fell just short at the buzzer, handing Wheaton the 63-61 victory.
The Pride are off until next Wednesday when it hosts MIT at 7:00 pm.
(Photo by Cindi Williamson of Fat Dog Fotos)