All-American center Noel Hollingsworth (broken foot) has not played one minute this season. Fellow fifth-year senior Jamie Karraker, arguably the top 3-point shooter in Division 3, has been sidelined by two balky knees.
Yet the MIT men's basketball team, ranked No. 1 nationally in the preseason, has persevered, and pieced together another stellar run, leaning heavily on their two senior anchors, floor leader Mitch Kates and rugged 6-foot-7-inch forward Will Tashman.
On Wednesday, however, it was Justin Pedley, a 6-6 freshman wing from Kenewick, Wash., that was the difference. He poured in a career-high 20 points, draining six of his eight launches from beyond the arc, as the Engineers held off fifth-ranked Worcester Poly Tech, 69-60, at Rockwell Cage.
"Justin played [power forward] in high school -- I think he took one 3 in high school -- but here, he has to step out, play guard, and he has continued to work on his game,and you can see that he has so much confidence in what he is doing," said MIT coach Larry Anderson.
"In practice, he doesn't wow you with anything, but he is pretty crafty."
In avenging its 65-59 loss in Worcester Jan. 19, the Engineers (19-4, 10-2 NEWMAC) earned a least a share of the conference title. MIT, which will carry a six-game winning streak into Sunday's regular-season finale against Wheelock, also received a workmanlike 8-point, 9-rebound, 3-block effort from 6-8 sophomore Mattt Redfield.
"It was an important game, for first place in the conference, and I just thought, with Kates (16 points, nine assists), and Tashman (13 points, 10 rebounds), and [senior guard] Jimmy Burke, you could just see their poise," said WPI coach Chris Bartley.
"They just set a tone at the start of the game, and executed.
"Their experience and execution just trumped us playing hard. They have length, athleticism, and strength. It was a good learning experience for us. ... Hopefully, we will see them again."
WPI (21-2, 9-2) can still secure home court in next week's NEWMAC tourney, however, with a win against Clark Saturday, with its sweep of nonleague foes Salem State and Rhode Island College serving as the tiebreaker (MIT lost to both teams).
Sophomore Marco Coppola of Watertown paced the visiting Engineers with a game-high 22 points.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell