Norton, MA --- Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) nailed a three with under 2.8 seconds to play, buoying #19 WPI to a comeback win over Wheaton, 80-77, on the road on Saturday afternoon. The Engineers, winners of ten straight, improve to 14-1 overall, 6-0 in the NEWMAC. Wheaton falls to 5-11, 0-5 in conference play.
Downing's bucket gave WPI its first lead of the second half and capped a 13-point second half comeback to preserve the Engineers' unbeaten NEWMAC record. The WPI defense held the Lyons without a point over the final 2:56 in the game.
Downing finished the day with 18 points and six assists, while Andrew Lufkin (Auburn, NH) had a team-best and career-high 19 points off the bench. John Lowther (Hingham, MA) tallied his first double-double of the season, and third of his career, with 16 points and 10 boards. Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) filled out the stat sheet with 17 points, seven assists, and three steals.
Wheaton's Aaron Williams (Springfield, MA) led all scorers, pouring in 31 points and completing a double-double with 12 rebounds. Alex Carlisle (St. Johnsbury, VT) notched a 23-point effort, while Evan Cook (Dunstable, MA) had 10 points with five rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
The opening action was tightly contested with the game knotted at 12-12 eight minutes into play. Wheaton created separation with a 12-3 run that put the Lyons up 24-17 with 8:35 on the clock.
WPI came back to tie at 30-30 on a McNamara three and then went up 33-30 on a triple from Lufkin with 4:25 left in the first. From there, it was all Wheaton, however, as the Lyons put together an 11-0 run to close the half, including nine points from Williams to make it 41-33 at the break.
Wheaton had the hot hand in the first half, shooting 50% from the field and holding WPI to just 39.4%.
Lowther and McNamara scored early in the second to close the gap to 41-38, but a Carlisle jumper at 14:40 gave Wheaton its largest lead of the day at 52-43. WPI chipped away, but the Lyons extended the advantage to 13 points on a Williams layup to make it 59-46 with 11:44 to play.
WPI continued to cut into the deficit, with a McNamara free throw making it a four-point game (68-64) with 6:40 remaining. Wheaton answered with more from Williams, however, as a three from the junior pushed the lead back to nine points with 3:49 to go.
Five quick points from Lufkin cut the lead to six, while a steal from Lufkin and a jumper from Lowther tied the game at 77-77 with 1:06 to play. From there, tight WPI defense and Downing's three put the Engineers in the driver's seat. After the go-ahead bucket, WPI held Wheaton without a shot in the final 2.8 seconds to preserve the victory.
WPI has little rest, taking on Hamilton tomorrow at 2pm at home. Wheaton continues NEWMAC play on Monday, hosting Coast Guard at home at 6pm.