Bench Boosts No. 5 Men's Basketball by Babson

Domenick Mastascusa

Worcester, MA --- Junior Domenick Mastascusa (North Reading, MA) and sophomore Zach Karalis (North Andover, MA) headlined one of WPI men's basketball's best bench performances of the season Wednesday night at Harrington Auditorium as the host Engineers held off Babson late to vanquish their NEWMAC rivals by a 66-62 final score.

Mastascusa led the fifth-ranked Engineers with 15 points, but it was Karalis who emerged down the stretch, icing the game on a pair of free throws with four seconds left to thwart a Beavers comeback bid. The sophomore swingman also came up with key late points in a NEWMAC Tournament semifinal win over Babson in 2013.

Overall, 34 points came from the Engineers' bench as stars Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) and Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) were both limited by the Beavers (10-4, 1-2). Kolb contributed 11 points, while Longwell had eight points and eight rebounds.

WPI (13-1, 3-0) now sits alone atop the NEWMAC standings after running the gauntlet with consecutive games against Springfield, MIT and Babson, winning all three. It was the Engineers' 10th straight victory overall and their 25th straight at Harrington, matching Florida for the fifth-best home arena streak in the country.

It's the ninth time in program history WPI has had a double-digit winning streak, seven of them under coach Chris Bartley, including a 22-gamer last season.

Babson's John Wickey (Manchester, NH) scored 15 of his game-high 21 points after the break, but it wasn't enough as the hosts led the entire second half. The junior led all players with 11 boards, all on the defensive end. Guard Matt Palazini (Franklin, MA) chipped in 14 points, 12 in the first half as the Beavers enjoyed a 31-12 bulge in points in the paint.

WPI held standout freshman Joey Flannery (Acton, MA) to nine points. 

Chad LaBove (Shrewsbury, MA) leveled the score at 17-17 just past the midway point of the first half, drawing a back-and-forth opening stretch to a conclusion.

The Beavers, who are receiving votes in the Top 25, strung together seven straight points over the next 1:57 with the final five coming from Palazini on a 3-pointer and a layup. That gave the visitors a 24-17 lead with 7:30 left in the half, but it was all WPI over the final stretch.

The Engineers' responded to Babson's biggest lead with a 17-4 run over final 6:46, initiated by a Ryan Kolb jumper.

Freshman reserve Marcus Middleton (Stoughton, MA) sank a trey with 2:04 left in the half to give WPI its first lead in over 10 minutes, 28-26.

After a Palazini layup, Middleton and Mastascusa hit consecutive baskets from beyond the arc to deliver the hosts a 34-28 halftime lead.

The Engineers led by at least five over for nearly the entire second half, stretching the lead as high as nine on three different occasions.

Freshman Sean Doncaster (Medford, MA) made it 37-28 on a three-point play 18 seconds out of the intermission.

A Kolb jumper kept WPI ahead, 59-50, with 4:52 to go, while Mastascusa struck with a mid-range jump shot 32 seconds later, making it 61-52.

The Beavers closed it to a two-point game, 61-59, with 2:13 left after a Wickey 3-pointer, but Longwell hit both his free throws on WPI's next trip down.

Wickey added three more points in the final 1:02, but LaBove made one of two from the line and Karalis followed to close out the win.

WPI leaves home to play Emerson at 1pm Saturday, while Babson follows up with a second straight road game, playing Wheaton at 1pm on Saturday as well. 

Release by Carl Setterlund - WPI Athletics Intern - Emerson '14

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