While most of RPI was at home relaxing during the break, the men’s basketball team was busy, playing in eight different competitions across the northeast. Winning all but three, the squad entered its string of Liberty League games with heads held high.
To start off the new year, the Engineers visited the Wentworth Institute of Technology Leopards in Boston on January 5 for a non-conference match. The first 12 minutes were a power struggle between the two teams as each tried to gain the advantage. In those first few minutes, there were a total of eight lead changes, but neither team held more than a three-point lead. At the break, the Engineers were able to boast a four-point lead, which they expanded to 12 after a 12-4 run in the opening of the second half. As the rest of the game unfolded, RPI continued to hold the double-digit lead and shot 61.5 percent from the floor to finish 79-58. Senior Tim Rupp was 5-for-8 from the floor with 14 points, as well as five assists and three steals.
RPI showed that it was ready to begin its Liberty League run in the Engineers’ final non-conference game against the St. Joseph’s College Fighting Saints in Vermont. The Engineers gained the lead five minutes into play 5-7, and despite many attempts by the Fighting Saints to take the lead, RPI was able to hold its advantage and finish the first half ahead by two points, 34-32.
Once the second period began, the Engineers were eager to advance their game. Beginning with senior Ricky Philatre one minute in, RPI went on a 12-2 run to bring its advantage up to 48-34. St. Joseph’s continued to push ahead during the remainder of the game, eventually bringing the teams to a tie at 63-63 at the end of regulation. In overtime, the Engineers proved to be the dominant team, finishing in the lead 70-67. The Engineers were led by Philatre with a total of 15 points, followed closely by Bull with 14 points. Freshman Daniel Martin also contributed 11 points with a 5-for-5 free throw attempt.
RPI began its Liberty League campaign on January 15 against St. Lawrence University. The Engineers got off to a great start, holding a seven point advantage seven minutes in. Three minutes later, however, the Saints managed to pull ahead by two points, which would be their only lead in the game. Junior Mike Brion responded with a layup that started a 12-0 run by the Engineers, securing their first half advantage, 43-27. The second half saw the Saints come within one point of the Engineers, but RPI kept its lead for the remainder of the game, finishing with its first Liberty League victory, 75-71.
The next day, the Engineers traveled to Clarkson University to face the Golden Knights. Senior Jeremy Colon started off the game with a jumper, but the Engineers soon lost their lead and were not able to gain it back until Anderson landed a three-pointer with ten minutes left in the opening half. Both teams then proceeded to battle for the lead, completing the first half with Clarkson on top, 28-25. Within the first five minutes of the second half, however, Clarkson increased its advantage to 10 points and maintained a double-digit advantage for most of the remaining time. Anderson led RPI with 10 points while Philatre added eight points and a game-high nine rebounds to RPI’s loss of 71-64.
On January 19, RPI hosted Vassar College in its Liberty League home opener. The Engineers held a 5-2 lead at the start of the opening half, but the Brewers soon took control and brought the game to a 9-9 tie at the 15:27 mark. The Engineers did not let this stand, however, and junior Ike Rodriguez made a layup that launched RPI to a 87-54 win. Junior Mike Hammond paced the Engineers with 12 points with a 2-for-2 shooting from beyond the arc, while Rupp added 11 points with eight rebounds and Blakemore also added 11 points to the board.
Three days later the Engineers traveled to Hamilton College to face the Continentals in a well-matched game. The first half of the contest saw many missed shots and good defense from both teams. Twelve minutes in, the teams were tied at 10-10, and that score stood for six minutes until the Continentals scored a layup, but the Engineers quickly made up the difference and brought the game to 12-12 with 1:52 left in play. Hamilton soon regained the lead to end the first half 17-12, and stayed strong for the remainder of the competition. The Engineers came within four points halfway through the second half, but ultimately gave up the win to the Continentals, 55-43.
The following day, RPI continued on its Liberty League schedule against Hobart College. Bull opened up play at 18:32 with a layup, and for the next ten minutes, both teams fought for the lead, neither gaining more than a three point advantage. The Statesmen then took off, claiming as much as a nine point difference until the Engineers brought it back down to one at halftime, 33-32. The second half saw a similar progression, with Hobart gaining an eight point lead of 44-36 at 13:44. The Engineers once again made up the difference and brought the game to a 58-58 tie at the end of regulation play. In overtime, Philatre claimed the first layup 20 seconds in and the Engineers held onto their advantage until the end, claiming a 66-64 victory. Philatre added 16 points to the scoreboard and gathered 14 rebounds during his 35 minutes on the court. Brion and Rupp also added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
This past weekend, the Engineers hosted the Union College Dutchmen at ECAV on Friday. Union jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first minute, and built their lead to as many as nine points at 16:17, but Bull managed to score RPI’s first layup at 18:36. The Engineers fought back ten minutes later when Brion entered the court to score 10 points in the run, including a three pointer that gave the Engineers a 24-22 lead. The Dutchmen reclaimed their lead and finished ahead of the Engineers, 34-31, at the end of the first half. RPI scored the first six points of the second half, bringing the Engineers to a 40-31 lead. The Dutchmen were quick to reclaim their advantage, holding as much as 12 point lead against the Engineers. Trailing 51-39, RPI scored nine straight points in the next 1:21 with seven from Brion, to cut the deficit to 51-48. The Dutchmen took off in the remaining minutes, finishing ahead of the Engineers 67-53.
Brion led all scorers with his career-high and game-high 21 points, including four three-pointers. He also had seven rebounds, an assist, and a steal, all within 20 minutes.
Additionally, RPI hosted Skidmore College this past Saturday at ECAV.
Skidmore opened the game with a 14-6 lead seven minutes in, but RPI was quick to come back and score the next seven points, including a three pointer by Anderson to push the Engineer deficit to one point at the 11:11 mark. Skidmore retaliated, going on a 16-1 run for a 30-14 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the opening half. They were able to push their advantage to 19 points twice in the remaining minutes, finishing 38-21 in the first half. The second half saw solid runs by both teams, but the Thoroughbreds came out on top, 74-65.
The Engineers stand at fifth place in the Liberty League, trailing St. Lawrence, Skidmore, Union, who are all tied at first and Clarkson in fourth. RPI currently holds an overall record of 11-6 and a conference record of 3-4. This coming weekend, the Engineers will host Clarkson and St. Lawrence on Friday and Saturday, respectively, both at ECAV.