By Peter McClelland
(Cambridge) – “We’re not 22 points better than Gordon,” declared MIT coach Larry Anderson after Tuesday night’s game. But there was the bad news on the scoreboard: MIT 66 – Gordon 44.
That “44” beside Gordon isn’t a misprint. In fact, if not for 15 points in the last eight minutes the Scots would not have gotten that many points.
The whole thing left Gordon coach Mike Schauer speechless. The rest of us were left talking to ourselves and trying to sort out how the Scots normally reliable shooting could nearly vanish completely.
We could blame the poor shooting on this being the team’s first road game. We could also mention that it was the first game after the Thanksgiving break. But that would be making excuses and good teams don’t usually need to do that. Instead, good teams locate the culprit (poor shooting) and assume that come Saturday afternoon, in the friendly confines of the Bennett Center against Newbury College, things will return to normal. We had better hope so because the 30% shooting we witnessed against MIT will not defeat anyone on the schedule ahead.
MIT is now 4-1 having won four in a row. They get to play our neighbors (Endicott) on Thursday at home. The Engineers have already defeated two Commonwealth Coast Conference teams (Curry and Gordon) by significant margins. I’m not sure that Endicott will fare any better. Next week MIT gets to play CCC newcomer Western New England at home. WNE is the favorite, according to a CCC coaches’ poll, to win the conference this season. They could give MIT some trouble.
The Scots (3-1) take their first loss and continue their non-conference schedule against Newbury on Saturday. Last season Newbury stunned the Scots, 70-69, in a game played in January at Hellenic College.
You need to know that in the MIT game it took a while for Gordon’s poor shooting to start to become evident. The Scots actually had a 19-15 advantage after eight minutes thanks to a Jeff Derr (sophomore-6′8″-Barrington IL) 3-point shot. The Engineers answered with a 9-4 run on the shooting of Jimmy Bartolotta, Will Mroz, and Hamidou Soumare. This gave MIT a slim 24-23 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
Then for some unexplained reason the Scots went into an 18-minute shooting funk that was painful to watch. The gory details? Gordon went into the drought down 24-23. When it was over they were down 59-29! And it wasn’t for lack of open looks because there were plenty. The difference simply was that MIT made a normal amount of open shots and Gordon didn’t.
“I don’t know if it was all our defense,” said Engineer coach Larry Anderson. “They were missing shots that they would probably make at home.” No one who has seen Gordon play at the Bennett Center will argue with his assessment.
The Scots frigid outside shooting allowed the Engineers the luxury of letting 6’7” junior shot-blocker Hamidou Soumare hang around the key and block or intimidate Gordon shooters trying to get to the basket. “He was dominant when he was in there,” recalled Coach Anderson. “He wasn’t with us last year because he took a year off to study abroad. He doesn’t have a great basketball background and is just starting to realize the impact he can have on a game defensively and emotionally.”
Cold from the outside and unable to penetrate on the inside things looked bleak indeed. But then a glimmer of hope in the second half – Hamidou, or “Dou” as he’s called, got his 4th foul and went to the bench with nearly 15 minutes left. The optimist inside me envisioned the 44-29 deficit being cut into significantly. So much for optimism. Instead of wilting, the Engineers ran off 15 unanswered points and built up that 59-29 advantage mentioned earlier.
Coach Anderson was unaware of the 15-point run until I mentioned it to him. “We were just focusing on playing defense and rebounding well. When things are going your way the momentum just starts rolling.” And roll they did to a 22-point victory.
In this game Gordon had no one score in double figures. When was the last time that happened? Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS), Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME), and Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) led the Scot scorers with nine each.
The Engineers were paced by junior Jimmy Bartolotta (23 points), Will Mroz (17 points), and Billy Johnson (10 points). Bartolotta and Mroz combined for 9 for 14 from long range. Hamidou Soumare registered 15 rebounds to go along with five blocks. Who knows how many shots he altered?