Worcester, MA --- A 3-pointer by Rebecca Fluet (Fitchburg, MA) late in the second half was the difference as visiting Fitchburg State defeated WPI 51-48 in a non-conference women's basketball matchup of 6-1 teams on Tuesday evening.
After WPI had scored four straight points on a Jessica Larsen (Poway, CA) layup and pair of Lisa Mendez (Yonkers, NY) free throws to go ahead 47-46 with just under four minutes to go, it was the Fitchburg State defense that came up strong, allowing just a single free throw while forcing four Engineer turnovers and five missed shots on the final nine WPI possessions. Fluet put the Falcons ahead 49-47 when she drained her trifecta with 3:37 remaining and gave them a 3-point cushion when her layup beat the shot clock with 27.2 seconds left. WPI had two good looks to tie the game in the final 13 seconds but both of its 3-point tries did not fall.
Each team used significant first half runs to open up six point advantages during the opening stanza. After WPI scored four points on its first two possessions, Fitchburg State followed with a 11-1 spurt to take a 11-5 lead with 12:58 to go before the break. The home-standing Engineers quickly countered by rattling off the next 12 points to take a six-point bulge of their own at 17-11 with 7:29 left in the opening period. The tightly contested first half ended when WPI's Tess Nogueira's (Merrimac, MA) 17-foot jumper just beat the final horn to send the Crimson and Gray to the locker room with a 21-18 advantage.
WPI opened up the biggest lead for either team at 36-28 five minutes into the second half but the Green and Gold responded immediately with 12 straight points, including six by Megan Wodzinski (Littleton, MA).
Fluet paced all players with 14 points, including a pair from downtown. Wodzinski ended with 10 points and six rebounds while Kristen Enright (Westminster, MA) flirted with a double-double, contributing 10 points and eight boards. Laura Cote (Ashby, MA) aided the Falcon effort with seven points, seven rebounds, three steals, a pair of assists and a block.
Haili Welton (Southbury, CT) highlighted a balanced WPI attack with nine points, three assists, three rebounds, a pair of blocks and two steals. Dani Davis (East Granby, CT) and Mendez each tossed in eight points while Nogueira gobbled up a game-best nine rebounds and point guard Rachel Pineda (Shrewsbury, MA) doled out a game-high four assists.
Fitchburg State parlayed nine offensive rebounds into 10 second chance points while the Engineers were only able to produce one point off 10 offensive boards. WPI did enjoy a 18-4 edge in bench scoring. The game was extremely close with the hosts leading for 18:28, Fitchburg State for 18:03 and two squads tied for the balance.
Both squads are off until after final exams and the Christmas holiday. WPI (6-2) is back on the court on Monday, December 29th facing Southern Maine at 7pm in the opening round of the Westfield State Tournament. Fitchburg State (7-1) picks up its schedule on Sunday, January 4th traveling to Wesleyan for a 2pm matchup with the Cardinals.