Worcester, MA --- Sophomore Joey Flannery (Acton, MA) poured in a season-high 36 points to lift visiting Babson to a key 59-55 road win at WPI in a battle of nationally-ranked NEWMAC men's basketball squads on Saturday afternoon.
Babson, 11th in the most recent D3hoops.com Top 25, avenged a home loss earlier to the Engineers and moves to 19-2 overall and 9-1 in conference action. WPI, 10th in the latest national poll, lost at home for just the second time in the regular season in the past three years and slips to 17-4 overall and 7-3 against NEWMAC foes.
The game, which was the annual Coaches vs. Cancer contest, was tightly-contested throughout with neither team leading by more than six points at any time. WPI used a Zach Karalis (Andover, MA) 3-pointer to take its biggest advantage of the game at 51-45 with 6:16 remaining. Babson quickly embarked upon a 9-0 run over the next 2:31 with Flannery accounting for eight straight at the end of the spurt to put the Beavers ahead 54-51.
After a pair of free throws by each team, WPI nearly tied the game with 46.5 seconds left as Obi Obiora (Brookline, MA) was fouled while connecting on a layup. The freshman saw his free throw rim out and the Crimson and Gray nearly forced a turnover on the ensuing possession but, following a mad scramble, David Mack (Holden, MA) was able to find a cutting Flannery, who hit a driving layup to put the Beavers up a 58-55 with 22.7 seconds remaining.
WPI had two cracks to tie the game but misfired on a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds. Babson's Eric Dean (Gilford, NH) hit a free throw with 0.9 seconds remaining to secure the win, the only point of the game for the Beavers not scored by the trio of Flannery, Mack or John Wickey (Manchester, NH).
Flannery reached the 30-point mark for the fourth team this season and his point output only trailed his 43 a year ago versus Emerson. The sophomore drained 14-of-24 shots from the field and 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. Wickey registered 14 points and six rebounds while Mack tallied eight points to go along with game-highs of 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks.
The duo of Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) and Karalis accounted for 36 of WPI's 55 points. Longwell played like a man possessed, totaling 22 points while attempting eight of the Engineers' nine free throws in the game. Karalis shook off a slow start to tally 11 of his 14 points in the second half, knocking down four 3-poiners in the contest. Obiora notched eight points, five rebounds, a pair of blocks and two assists while point guard Aaron Davis (Marshfield, MA) pitched in with four assists, three boards and two steals.
Both teams shot 39.6% from the field in the game that featured 10 lead changes and nine ties. Babson, who hadn't won in Harrington Auditorium since 2004 - a string of 14 games that included 10 regular season games versus WPI, two additional games against the Engineers in the NEWMAC Tournament and postseason losses to MIT and Springfield - enjoyed a 28-9 advantage in free throws attempts and a 30-22 bulge in points in the paint. WPI, who entered the week third in the country in 3-point percentage (26.3%) did not allow a Beaver trifecta in 12 tries and, including Wednesday's game at Emerson, have forced opponents to miss on 21 of their last 22 attempts from downtown. WPI's reserves, led by Karalis' 14 points, outscored its Babson counterparts 19-0.
Babson took its largest lead of the game at 29-23 just before halftime but a 3-pointer by Shane Farley (Burlington, MA) and a layup by Obiora, sandwiched between a Flannery basket, sent the Beavers to the locker room with just a 31-28 edge at intermission.