RPI victorious in Tri-State Tourney

A week after its loss to The Sage Colleges, the men’s basketball team headed to Massachusetts for their game against Williams College. Williams is ranked seventh in the nation, so RPI expected a challenging game ahead of time. Despite a strong first half, RPI could not hold on and the Ephs came from behind for the 91-84 victory.

RPI started with very energetic play, especially on defense. The full-court press helped limit the Ephs’ offensive options early on. Senior Matthew Pooley continued to play well and he scored five of RPI’s first twelve points while the defense limited Williams to five points.

The Ephs climbed back in and took the lead with 11 minutes to play in the half, bringing the score to 19-18. Williams then extended its lead to 26-20 before RPI came storming back to reclaim a 42-38 advantage at halftime. RPI’s constant pressure had resulted in 13 turnovers, which it had turned into 19 points at the break.

The Engineers stared well again as they stretched their lead to 11 points. However, just like before, the Ephs fought their way back into the game. Williams saw RPI open a 56-49 lead, but reacted with seven points to tie it at 56 with 12 minutes to go.

Soon the Ephs took the lead for good when a breakaway made it 60-58. They then began to increase their advantage to 73-64, but the Engineers managed to bring it back to 84-82 with 1:10 remaining. This would be as close as RPI would get and Williams would win 91-84. This left the Engineers with a 1-3 record.

After the loss, RPI headed to Vermont for the Tri-State Shootout for its first round tilt against the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Once again RPI shot out to an early advantage, leading 13-3 at one point against the Trailblazers. However, MCLA came back and slowly cut the deficit, tying the game with 6:44 left in the half. The Trailblazers then took the lead into halftime, 49-44.

MCLA extended the lead to seven almost right away after the intermission. But this time, it would be RPI that would show the fight back as it managed to get the game tied at 57 with almost 15 minutes left in the half.

RPI grew its lead to eight points when junior Redon Qello scored two of his team-high 20 points on a lay-up with 13 minutes remaining in the game.

The lead would change a couple of times throughout the period as no team could break away from the other. Fortunately, RPI held onto the lead late when two free throws by junior Jamie Zajac and one by Pooley proved to make the difference and RPI captured a 98-96 victory.

The Tri-State Shootout Championship was not nearly as close as RPI’s first game as it used an excellent second half to get a 107-90 tournament win against St. Joseph’s College.

RPI did not start the game well, going down 19-4 at one point. However, the Engineers were able to keep the Saints within striking distance for the rest of the half despite only shooting 32 percent. The first frame finished 57-48 in favor of St. Joseph’s.

RPI finally saw the lead in the second half when eventual tournament MVP Qello sank two free throws to make the score 68-66 in favor of the Engineers. Rensselaer began shooting much better and finished with 47 percent shooting. This was highlighted by the performances of Zajac, who scored 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting and junior Brendan Farley who nailed five treys.

The better offensive shooting was also paired with better defense as St Joseph’s only shot 27 percent. RPI was playing very well and finished the game off with a 27-10 run which brought the score all the way to 107-90.

Qello was awarded tournament MVP for his excellent performance while Zajac was placed on the All-Tournament team for his.

Following the tournament, Qello was tabbed as the Liberty League Performer of the Week.

The two Tri-State Tournament victories brought RPI’s record to 3-3 and the Engineers have to wait until January 2 to play the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. Rensselaer then comes back home for a five-game home stand including games against Middlebury College on January 3, the Liberty League opener against the Rochester Institute of Technology on January 6, and a game against St. Lawrence University on January 7.