Men's Basketball

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NEWMAC Championship Game Preview: No. 1 Men's Basketball vs. MIT

NEWMAC Championship Game Preview: No. 1 Men's Basketball vs. MIT

NEWMAC Tournament Final
No. 1 Men's Basketball vs. MIT
Sunday, February 26—3 p.m.
Staake Gymnasium—Babson Park, Mass.

Babson and MIT will meet for the 74th time on Sunday afternoon in a series that dates back to the 1978-79 season. The Beavers are 53-20 all-time against the Engineers and have won nine of the last 10 matchups going back to 2014.

Babson and MIT will meet for the seventh time in the NEWMAC Tournament and 11th time in the postseason on Sunday. The Beavers have won seven of the previous 10 postseason matchups, including a 12-point victory in last year's conference title game.

The winner of Sunday's game will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Babson is first in the most recent NCAA Northeast regional rankings and is in position to earn one of 22 at-large selections on Monday, while MIT is seventh in the most recent rankings and is firmly on the bubble.

Senior Joey Flannery scored 21 points and junior Nick Comenale buried the go-ahead three-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining as the Beavers rallied to defeat MIT, 70-67, last Saturday in Babson Park. Classmate Bradley Jacks scored 16 points for Babson, which trailed by 19 early in the second half and closed the game with a 13-0 run. Senior Tim Butala led all players with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting for the Engineers.

Sophomore Bradley Jomard paced four players in double figures with 21 points and Ryan Frankel added 19 points and nine assists as MIT built a 16-point second-half lead on its way to defeating the Beavers, 71-66, on January 20, 2016, in Babson Park. Flannery had 21 points and six boards for Babson, which cut a 15-point deficit down to just three in the closing minute.

MIT (20-6) is making its fifth NEWMAC Tournament championship game appearance in the last seven years after defeating third-seeded WPI, 63-61, on Saturday night. Sophomore AJ Jurko had 18 points and six assists and Jomard added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Engineers, who never had a lead bigger than five in the win. Jomard is averaging 15.4 points, 6.9 boards and 3.5 assists, Butala (14.1 pts, 5.5 reb) is shooting 47.6 percent from the floor, and Jurko (11.7 pts, 4.9 reb, 4.9 ast) leads the conference in assists and is tied for third in three-point field-goal percentage (46.6). MIT ranks seventh in Division III in scoring defense allowing just 63.1 points.

Babson (25-1) has now won 16 straight games after defeating fourth-seeded Springfield, 67-62, on Saturday night. Flannery finished with 30 points and first-year Frank Oftring added 15 on 6-of-9 shooting for the Beavers, who outscored the Pride 30-20 in the paint. Flannery (22.3 pts, 7.1 reb, 4.0 ast) ranks 23rd in the nation in scoring, Comenale (16.4 pts, 5.7 reb, 2.3 ast) has made a school-record 90 three-pointers this winter and senior Isaiah Nelsen (12.7 pts, 6.0 reb) is shooting 63.2 percent from the floor, which ranks sixth in Division III. The Green and White ranks fourth in the country in scoring margin (16.7) and is eighth in field-goal percentage defense (37.9).

The Beavers' 16-game winning streak is the second longest in school history behind the 2014-15 squad, which posted 17 straight victories on the way to the Division III Final Four.

Playing without three of its top nine players (Jacks, Sam Bohmiller, David Stauffer), the Green and White continues to get production from other sources. Oftring played a career-high 25 minutes and contributed five rebounds and two assists to go along with his career-high 15 points, while senior Charlie Rice came off the bench to score 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Additionally, junior Chris Lowry, who started for the fifth time in the last seven games, matched his career high with eight assists on Saturday.

The Engineers have led by double figures at halftime of both regular season games against Babson this season. The Beavers used a 55-point second half to overcome a 13-point deficit in their  71-65 victory in Cambridge on January 18, and then trailed by 12 at the half and 19 just after the break before holding MIT to just nine points over the final 10 minutes of last Saturday's three-point victory.

The Beavers have won 10 consecutive postseason games at home and their 21-game winning streak at Staake Gymnasium is currently the second longest in Division III.