Salem, MA --- Sam Longwell (Acton, MA) scored 18 points and added five rebounds to help the WPI Engineers hold on for a 75-71 victory over the Salem State Vikings at Twohig Gymnasium on Tuesday evening. WPI, which led by 20 points at halftime, withstood a furious second half comeback by Salem State to remain perfect on the year at 8-0. The Vikings, who lost their first home game of the season slip to 4-4.
Points were hard to come by in the opening minutes as both teams combined for just two baskets in 10 attempts and eight turnovers. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Zach Karalis (North Andover, MA) however, gave WPI a 16-11 at the 9:09 mark, and fueled the Engineers on an 18-1 run over the next six minutes. Domenick Mastascusa (North Reading, MA) scored eight straight points – two three's and a layup - during the streak that saw Salem State go nearly three and a half minutes without a basket. The Vikings shot a dismal 8-26 (31%) and committed 15 turnovers in the period to help WPI garner a 40-20 halftime lead.
A layup by Ryan Kolb (Southington, CT) increased the lead to 42-20 at the beginning of the second half and the game appeared headed for a rout. However, Justin Nieves (Lawrence, MA) and Nate Simpson (Lowell, MA) combined to score nine straight points for the Vikings to bring Salem State to within 48-33 with 14:50 remaining. Hanell Velez (Woburn, MA) came off the bench and scored eight points during a 12-2 run for the Vikings to help cut the deficit to 53-47. Nieves, Simpson, Velez and Andrew White (Medford, MA), who finished with 12 points, combined to score 47 of Salem State's 51 second half points.
The Vikings twice cut the lead to a single point late in the half, the second coming on a tip-in by Velez with 4:30 remaining on the clock that made the score 59-58 in favor of WPI.
The Engineers regained control and went up 65-58 following a layup by Mastascusa. WPI had a chance to put the game away, but missed free throws three straight times to the line allowed the Vikings to remain within a basket at 71-68 after Velez knocked in his fourth three-pointer of the game with twenty seconds remaining. Mastascusa grabbed a key offensive board off another missed free throw on the next WPI possession, and calmly sank two from the charity stripe to give the Engineers some breathing room with twelve seconds left. A White layup and free throw pulled the Vikings to within three at 74-71 with five seconds left, but Marco Coppola (Watertown, MA) hit 1-of-3 two from the line to ice the 75-71 victory for WPI.
Kolb finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, and Coppola and Mastascusa each added 12 to help WPI to its best start since the 2005-2006 season. Mastascusa also grabbed nine rebounds. Simpson had a double-double -15 points, 20 rebounds -for the Vikings, while Nieves knocked in 17. Velez contributed 16 points, including four-of-six from three point range. The Engineers shot 9-31 (29%) in the second half and missed seven free throws in the period. Salem State meanwhile rebounded from a dismal start and shot a stellar 21-39 (54%) after halftime.
Salem State returns to the court on Thursday evening when they host MIT at 7pm. WPI will entertain nationally-ranked (No. 14) Rhode Island College at home also on Thursday at 7pm.
Release Courtesy Salem State Sports Information