Springfield, Mass. -- February 12, 2011 -- The Clark University men's basketball team erased a nine-point deficit in a span of 44 seconds and used two free throws by Jake Gubitose with 12 seconds remaining to complete a stunning 78-76 comeback win over Springfield College in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action on Saturday afternoon in Blake Arena.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 9-14 overall, 3-7 in league play, while the Pride's five-game winning streak came to a close as it now stands at 14-9 overall, 6-4 in NEWMAC play. With MIT losing at Coast Guard, 62-53, SC and MIT still find themselves tied for second place in the conference standings.
Senior forward Matt Cavalieri (West Warwick, R.I.) netted a team-best 21 points for the Pride and pulled down 12 boards, while junior guard Jordan Rote (Sheffield, Mass.) continued to shine off the bench, producing 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Both senior guard Darvis Rankins (Boston, Mass.) and senior guard Billy Harkins (Bellmore, N.Y.) tallied 11 points and combined for seven assists.
For the Cougars, junior forward Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) turned in a stellar performance with 21 points and 13 caroms on 7-of-15 shooting. Junior forward DJ Bailey (Palmer, Mass.) came off the bench to net 15 points before fouling out, while junior forward Mitch Renshaw (Rutland, Mass.), junior guard Travis Curley (Trumbull, Conn.), and sophomore guard Tucker Esborn (Branford, Conn.) each contribued 10 points.
The Pride came out of the gate strong and owned a 10-point lead at the 13:30 mark after Cavalieri connected on a three to make it 16-6. However, the Cougars eventually found their rhythm around the Springfield zone as they went on a 20-5 run over the next 7:59 en route to a 26-21 lead. An acrobatic lay-in by Rote evened the game at 30 all with 2:09 remaining, only to have back-to-back Bailey inside buckets give the visitors a four-point cushion. The teams traded buckets down the stretch before Cavalieri ended the half with a pair of free throws to make it 38-37 in favor of the visitors heading into intermission.
In the second half, Clark was able to maintain its very slight lead until a Cavalieri lay-up tied it at 50-all with 13:03 remaining. A 3-pointer by Harkins put SC into the lead at 53-50 with 12:09 left. With SC up by three at 58-55, the Pride then scored six straight points to open up a slight gap.
SC led by 11, its largest lead with 4:16 remaining, on two Rote free throws. The Pride still led by nine at 76-67 with 2:22 to go on a Harkins' free throw. But little did anyone know that would be SC's last point of the afternoon.
Then came the 44-second span. Clark's Esborn made two free throws with 2:14 to go. After an SC turnover, Vayda made two more free throws at 2:09 left to cut it to five, 76-71. Two Clark steals later, it was Vayda making a lay-up with 1:44 to go, and it was a three point game at 76-73. Freshman guard Jeff Tagger (Brockton, Mass.) stole the ball immediately and found Gubitose, a freshman guard from Fiskdale, Mass., in the dead right corner for a tying 3-pointer, and there was still 1:38 remaining.
On the next SC possession, Vayda blocked a shot with 1:10 left, but Tagger turned it over with 0:43 left. A lay-up attempt by junior forward Evan Christner (Voorhessville, N.Y.) with 20 seconds left was rebounded by Vayda. At the same time, a double foul was called when Clark sophomore guard Jon Karas (South Glastonbury, Conn.) and SC sophomore forward Pat Rossi (Rock Tavern, N.Y.) were scrambling for position and fell to the floor.
Clark retained possession, but with 12 seconds left, Gubitose was fouled about 30 feet away from the hoop as Rote attempted to tie him up. Gubitose calmly swished both free throws.
A final 3-point attempt by Rote in the last second hit the rim, giving the Cougars the victory.
Clark outrebounded SC, 39-37. Clark wound up shooting 42.1% from the floor to SC's 39.3%.
In its next outing, Springfield will play its final home game of the regular season when it clashes with rival WPI at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 16.