Nationally-Ranked Men's Basketball Tripped up by Springfield Despite 22 Points from Niba

Ian Converse

WORCESTER – The combination of Josh Altman (Rockport, MA) and Josh Downes (East Sandwich, MA) tallied 32 of Springfield's 56 points as the Pride went into Harrington Auditorium and defeated nationally-ranked WPI 56-51 on Saturday evening. 

With the victory, Springfield improves to 8-11 on the season and 4-4 in NEWMAC play.  WPI, ranked 13th in the most recent Top 25, dips to 16-3 overall and 6-2 in conference action. 

Altman, who was held scoreless in the first half, hit a jumper 13 seconds into the second stanza to put the Pride ahead for good.  Springfield scored seven of the opening eight points of the half and went ahead by as many as 14 just 7:18 into the half.  The hosts whittled the deficit to three at 50-47 on a Clyde Niba (Atlanta, GA) 3-pointer with just over three minutes left and then two on a Niba freebie a minute later.   Springfield quickly countered with a layup from Adam McNaulty (West Springfield, MA) with 1:49 and used four Downes' free throws in the final 16 seconds to secure the victory. 

Altman record all 17 of his points in the second half while Downs posted 11 of his 15 in the opening 20 minutes.  Altman, who had a pair of 3-pointers, stuffed the stat sheet, with eight rebounds, all defensive, three assists and a pair of assists.  McNulty finished with eight points, five rebounds and five assists while Larry Piretra (Oakland, NJ) grabbed seven rebounds to go along with six points, all on 3-pointers and Kevin Durkin (Worcester, MA) notched six points off the bench. 

Niba paced all scorers with 22 points for the Engineers.  The senior accounted for nine of WPI's 20 field goals on the night.  Sean Doncaster (Medford, MA) reached double digits with 10 points while Obi Obiora (Boston, MA) and Ian Converse (Woodstock, CT) tossed in six points apiece.  Niba and Obiora both corralled eight boards while Jamani Spencer (Closter, NJ) handed out five assists.

The first half featured four ties and three lead changes.  The two teams went into the locker room tied at 23-23 despite Springfield holding a 45.5% to 30.3% advantage in field goal shooting.  The Engineers were able to forge the deadlock by converting nine first half Springfield turnovers into eight points while the Pride were unable to convert any of WPI's four miscues into points. 

WPI closes out a brief two-game homestand on Wednesday at 6pm versus Emerson.  Springfield is also in action on Wednesday, entertaining MIT at 7:30pm.