Defense Helps No. 16 Men's Basketball Extend Season-Opening Streak to 18 Games

Colin McNamara

WORCESTER --- Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) highlighted three players in double figures in scoring with 14 points and the WPI defense forced 24 turnovers as the No. 16-ranked Engineers defeated visiting Brandeis 55-46 in the 2019-20 season opener for both teams. 

It marked the 18th straight season that the Crimson and Gray won its first game of the season for 19th year head coach Chris Bartley.     

WPI used a 12-2 run to start the game and a 7-2 spurt to end the first half to take a 31-20 advantage into the locker room at the break.  Brandeis's only lead of the game was 16-14 on a 3-pointer by Dylan Lien (Northboro, MA) with 8:13 remaining in the half. 

Brandeis was within five points (49-44) with under 90 seconds remaining but WPI quickly pushed the bulge back up to 10 points on a pair of free throws by Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) with 1:24 left and then, following a steal by McNamara, a conventional three-point play by Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA) with 1:05 to go. 

In addition to McNamara's 14 points, the Engineers received 13 from Reid Walker (Tampa, FL) and 11 from Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA).  Stephenson led all players with 12 rebounds en route to his fourth career double-double. Ethan Harrell (Wexford, PA) contributed a 3-pointer and a pair of blocks for the hosts. 

Collin Sawyer (New London, CT) paced the Judges with 10 points and six boards while Chandler Jones (Springfield, MA) stuffed the stat sheets with seven points, a team-best 11 rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals.  Lian led all reserves in the contest with nine points. 

Defense on both ends was strong.  WPI shot 32.1% (18-of-56) from the floor and just 1-of-18 (5.6%) from downtown while the Judges were only 16-of-44 (36.4%) shooting.  The game saw a combined 46 fouls whistled, with the hosts shooting well from the free throw line (78.3%) and Brandeis only draining 56.3% of its freebies. 

WPI is off until next Friday when its hosts New England College at 5:30pm in the opening round of the fifth annual Ted Coghlin Memorial Tournament.  The other first round contest features No. 10 Nichols and 2017 champion Eastern Connecticut.  Brandeis concludes a brief two-game season-opening road trip this Wednesday at Rivier.  Tipoff is slated for 7pm.