WORCESTER --- For the second time under the tutelage of Chris Bartley and the first time since 2005, the No. 13 WPI men's basketball team is headed to the NCAA Tournament Sectional Round after a 72-52 defeat of Penn State Harrisburg in front of a spirited home crowd at Harrington Auditorium.
The Engineers (26-2) held the Lions (24-4) to just 12 first half points, while junior John Lowther (Hingham, MA) poured on another 23 points and six rebounds en route to the victory. WPI will now face Rensselaer, a 58-57 winner at No. 8 Wesleyan on Saturday match on Friday at a site and time to be announced on Sunday afternoon.
The stingy Engineers, ranked fifth in the country in scoring defense, once again held their postseason opponent to fewer points than their season average (60-3) while shutting down the Lions to the tune of a 20.0 first half field goal percentage (5-of-25) and 11 first half turnovers en route to the victory.
Lowther was joined on the offensive front by a 13-point effort from John Adams (Douglas, MA), who registered 12 of those points in the first half of play on 6-of-9 shooting. Adams added six rebounds and three assists in just 26 minutes of action. Also putting up double-digits was Colin McNamara (Arlington, MA) who finished with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. All of McNamara's 11 points came in the second-half of action.
The first five minutes of play was a back-and-forth affair before the Engineers raced out on a 16-2 run that eclipsed a seven-minute span. Adams started things off with a layup, followed by a Kahleb Downing (Middletown, CT) trey and yet another Adams bucket. Penn State Harrisburg got one basket back, but a Logan O'Donnell (FIshkill, NY) and-one followed by three-straight baskets from Lowther to give the Engineers a 20-6 advantage.
Neither team was able to score for the following two minutes before Donyae Baylor-Carrol (Harrisburg, PA) ended things with a three, but Adams responded right away and Andrew Lufkin (Auburn, NH) tacked on a trey of his own to kick off another big 13-0 run. Zegary Scott (Jersey City, NJ) added a free throw before the end of the half for the Lions, but it was WPI with a 37-12 halftime advantage.
Penn State Harrisburg didn't relent, starting things off with a layup to begin things in the second half, but one again there was Lowther with a response three, followed by another three from Downing a couple minutes later to build the lead to 43-14.
The Lions were able to keep pace with the Engineers through the second half and were able to whittle away the once 31-point lead down to 18, thanks to a 6-0 run and some 3-point shooting from Pedro Rodriguez (Allentown, PA) but the Engineers were able to coast to the victory, for the school's third ever second round victory.
Baylor-Carroll led the Lions with a 19-point outing while Scott tacked on 16 points, two rebounds and three assists.
The Lions outscored WPI 40-35 in the second half, though WPI was able to out-rebound (40-32) and out-assist (21-8) its counterparts.