Engineers split homestand, secure fourth seed
The Engineers began their two-game homestand against the RIT Tigers on Friday night. The Tigers started strong, jumping to a nine point lead just over six minutes into the game. About five minutes later, a Dylan Matchett layup cut the deficit to one possession, and with 2:08 remaining in the first, the Engineers took their first lead with a layup from Dom Black. After starting slow, the Engineers went on a 19‒6 run and went into halftime up 27‒23.
The Engineers continued to heat up in the second half, improving their field goal percentage by nearly 20 while holding the Tigers in check defensively. Avery Eugster hit a layup with 16:07 remaining to put the Engineers up 36‒25, a double-digit lead they held for the rest of the game. The Engineers caught the Tigers’ defense by their tails, scoring 39 in the half en route to a 66‒46 win. Black led the way with team highs of 14 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Matchett scored 12 and hit career highs in points, field goals made, and three pointers made.
To finish their regular season, the Engineers faced the Hobart Statesmen on Saturday afternoon. Both teams sat near the top of the Liberty League standings with 11‒6 conference records, trailing only the Ithaca Bombers and St. Lawrence Saints. The two teams traded blows for most of the first half, but the Engineers were able to stay ahead. Will Fredericks hit a three to push the lead to seven, the largest by either team all game. The lead didn’t last long, and the Statesmen went into halftime up 37‒31 after an 18‒5 run.
Again, the two teams started in a mirror match, each matching the other’s three baskets in the first three minutes. Then, the Engineers returned the favor from before halftime with a run of their own, outscoring the Statesmen 12‒2, and going up by four after Fredericks drilled another three. After failing to connect on any of his shots versus the Tigers, Fredericks was on fire Saturday, hitting four of five from downtown on way to a career-high 16-point outing. Black also scored 16, putting up nine boards in the process. However, Black’s contributions were not enough as the Engineers struggled to pull down rebounds, particularly on the defensive end. The Statesmen dominated the Engineers on the glass, 39‒22, with the trio of Meshanic brothers notching 15 on their own.
The Statesmen kept it close, tying the game back up at 51, 54, 56, and finally 58 with 4:45 left. Despite six points and the best efforts of Black, the Engineers were unable to match the Statesmen’s late game 14‒9 run. Five Hobart misses from the charity stripe in the last seventy seconds kept the game competitive, but a clutch three from Jackson Meshanic pushed it just out of reach. Hobart held strong, winning the 72‒67 nail-biter behind 31 points from the Meshanics and 17 from Andrew Lynch.
The game pushed the Statesmen one win ahead of the Engineers in the standings and into the third seed, leading them to play a sixth-seeded Vassar team that has lost five straight. Even with the loss, RPI secured the four seed, and a home playoff game, with a tiebreaker over Skidmore, who fell to the five seed with their loss to Saint Lawrence on Friday. The Engineers will host the Thoroughbreds on February 21 at 7:30 at ECAV Arena, and the winner of that game will travel to Ithaca to face the top-seeded Bombers on Friday. Click here for the box score of the RIT game or here for the recording. For the game against Hobart, click here for the box score and here for the recording.