Wheaton still in running for league tourney berth, fends off MIT, 58-56

NORTON, Mass. - The Wheaton College women's basketball team remained in the running for one of six New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament spots on Wednesday thanks in part to its 58-56 victory over visiting Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Emerson Gymnasium.

The Lyons snapped their two-game losing skid while upping their overall and league marks to 10-12 and 7-8, respectively.  The Engineers dropped their fourth straight to fall to 8-13 and 4-11.

Wheaton sophomore Jana Jagodzinski (Old Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) finished one point shy of her season best with 15, going 7-of-11 from the floor.  Classmate Natasha Colon Ortiz (Holyoke, Mass./Holyoke) shot 6-of-11 for 13 points and a game-high-tying seven rebounds, while junior Gabbie DePalo (Rumson, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven Regional) added 12 markers and six boards.

Freshman Tamara Pena (Aliso Viejo, Calif./Aliso Niguel) paced the visitors with 23 points, while sophomore Anna Merrifield (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) and first-year Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect) added 12 and 11, respectively.  Hunt also pulled down seven rebounds.

The hosts shot 44.9 percent overall and 82.4 percent from the free throw line while holding a 40-24 rebounding advantage.  With 12 giveaways, MIT turned the ball over six fewer times than its counterparts but shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 50 percent at the charity stripe.

Wheaton held the interior edge in the opening half, as Colon Ortiz, DePalo and Jagodzinski combined to shoot 9-of-15.  The game was tight through the opening eight-plus minutes, with Wheaton clinging to a 12-10 lead at 12:45, but the Lyons eventually rattled off nine straight points for a 21-12 advantage with 7:40 to go before the break. 

MIT shaved its deficit to 25-19 at 3:35 before the hosts grabbed the first half's largest lead at 31-20 with 47 seconds showing.  Wheaton, which shot 46.2 percent overall and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe while outrebounding the Engineers by a 23-12 count, led 31-22 at the intermission.

The Lyons appeared to be in control in the early going of the second half, jumping out to a commanding 52-33 lead with less than nine minutes to go.  However, the Engineers stormed back, using a 23-6 run to chop their deficit all the way down to two at 58-56 with less than a minute to go.  After a Wheaton missed freebie with nine ticks left, MIT had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final possession but failed to get off a shot.

Wheaton takes to the road for its next two conference games, beginning with Saturday afternoon's contest in Northampton against Smith College at 2:00 p.m.

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