SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (January 12, 2008) – The Springfield College men’s basketball team dropped its New England Women’s and Men’s Conference (NEWMAC) opener to WPI on Saturday afternoon, 81-71, in Blake Arena.
The loss drops the Pride to 5-8, 0-1 in conference play, while the Engineers improve to 11-3, 2-0 in the NEWMAC.
Springfield was paced by an outstanding individual effort by junior John Strawson (Torrington, Conn.) as he netted a career and game-high 24 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) and grabbed 11 rebounds. Strawson was the main reason the Pride was a force in the paint all game, outscoring WPI, 42-24.
The game started off back and forth with no team holding a margin of more than four until Jerome Kirkland’s fast break layup at the 9:41 mark gave the Engineers a 17-11 lead. After the Pride battled back to cut the lead to five after a pair of free throws by Pat Crean (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.) with 4:25 left in the first half, WPI went on a 14-6 run over the next 3:46. Capped off by another Kirkland fast break lay in, WPI connected on four three-pointers, including a pair by NT Izuchi. The Pride managed to cut the lead to nine heading into the locker, trailing 42-33. WPI shot 53% from downtown in the first half, connecting on 8-of-15. The Pride was able to hang close as it shot 13-of-15 from the charity stripe, including Crean connecting on all eight of his freebies.
In the second stanza, Springfield opened up a 13-8 run to get within five after Crean knocked down a jumper from the corner at the 13:01 mark, which forced a WPI timeout. WPI extended its lead back to eight after Izuchi connected again from beyond the arc to go up 58-50 with 9:02 remaining in the contest. A lay up inside by Strawson and a pair of freebies by Russ Krichman (Wall, N.J.) got the Pride with four, the closest they would get the rest of the way with 7:40 on the clock. From there, Kirkland sparked a 9-2 Engineer run to take control of the game as the visitors lead by 11 with just over five minutes left. Kirkland tallied six of his 20 points during that run.
Crean finished with 18 points, eight boards, and four assists while Ryan Blackmon (Stamford, Conn.) added 15 points and six rebounds. Springfield finished the game with a 47-39 advantange on the boards, and went 22-of-28 from the free throw line.
Kirkland’s 20 points led the way for WPI while Antoine Coleman added 16 points. Izuchi finished with 15 points as he went a perfect 5-of-5 from downtown and Jim Marois added 14. WPI went 14-for-30 from downtown in the game, while the Pride hit just one of 12.
Springfield returns to action on Monday evening when it travels to take on Vassar in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. at 7 pm in non-conference play.