Cullinane scores 18 points as Lyons down MIT 56-46 on Senior Night

VIDEO: Highlights from MIT/Wheaton

NORTON, Mass. – Senior Nicole Cullinane (Rindge, N.H./New Hampton School) scored a career-high 18 points to help the Wheaton College women's basketball team to a 56-46 win over MIT on Senior Night Wednesday evening in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action at Emerson Gymnasium.

Cullinane sank five 3-pointers and also snared four rebounds as the Lyons (9-15, 7-10 NEWMAC) snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 36-16 all-time against the Engineers (10-13, 6-11 NEWMAC). Freshman Abbie Brickley (Sandy, Utah/Skyline) netted 18 points and snared seven rebounds for Wheaton while senior Gabbie DePalo (Rumson, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven) tallied eight points and nine boards in the final home game of her career.

"Tonight was really about the seniors," said Lyons head coach Melissa Hodgdon. "I knew how badly they wanted to win, and I felt our team was going to pull together and get a win for them. MIT was scrappy tonight, so we had to stay composed down the stretch to finish the game."

The Lyons closed the first half on a 20-10 and took a 22-16 lead into halftime behind 10 points from Brickley and five from Cullinane. Wheaton took its first lead of the game on a jumper by Cullinane with 6:40 to go in the half and led the rest of the way. Defensively, Wheaton held MIT to just 24 percent from the field (7-of-29) in the opening 20 minutes.

MIT cut its deficit to three points on seven occasions in the second half – including twice in the final 90 seconds. Following a triple by freshman Alexxis Isaac (San Antonio, Texas/Douglas MacArthur) with 1:29 remaining, Wheaton freshman Kenzie Kuhn (Glenwood Springs, Colo./Glenwood Springs) calmly sank a pair of free throws to push the lead back to five (48-43).

Freshman Michelle Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y./Somers) answered with a basket for the Engineers to again slice the deficit to three at 48-45, but Cullinane sank her fifth and final three-pointer of the evening out of a timeout with 20 seconds remaining to seal the win.

"I was so proud of Nicole," said Hodgdon. "She works really, really hard, and you want the balls to drop for those kids. She hit a pivotal three for us with less than a minute to go, and I was just really proud of her."  

The Lyons shot 39 percent from the field – including 42 percent from three-point land – and dominated the glass, outrebounding MIT 47-31. Wheaton also picked up assists on 14 of its 21 field goals.

Isacc finished with a team-high 13 points while sophomore Tamara Pena (Aliso Viejo, Calif./Aliso Niguel) and freshman Marl Kordell (Ijamsville, Md./Urbana) each scored 13 points for the Engineers, who finished the evening shooting 29 percent and only turned the ball over six times.

Wheaton wraps up its regular season on Saturday when it travels to Mount Holyoke for a 1 p.m. contest. The Engineers host Clark Saturday at 2 p.m.