The NEWMAC championship, and the accompanying automatic ticket to the NCAA Division 3 tournament, were on the line. And the ball was in the trusted hands of MIT floor leader Mitch Kates.
The 6-foot-1-inch junior slashed to the basket for the go-ahead points with 1:37 left, triggering an 8-0 run, and the top-seeded Engineers pulled away for a 65-60 victory over Springfield at Rockwell Cage, capturing their third conference title in four seasons.
“I had been finding my way to the rim most of the game, and . . . every [defender] stayed on their shooters, and I just laid it up,’’ said Kates, who poured in a team-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting and dished out six assists in 39 minutes.
The next time down the floor, 6-9 senior center Noel Hollingsworth (14 points, 10 rebounds) rolled left and banked in a feathery 12-foot jump hook to give the third-ranked Engineers (25-1) a 61-58 lead.
“He can make that [hook shot] 80 to 90 percent of the time,’’ said Kates, who buried a pair of clinching free throws with nine seconds remaining and was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player. “You watch him run up and down the court, and he is so gawky, but his touch is unreal.’’
The Engineers closed the first half with a 17-4 run for a 37-27 cushion, but Springfield (17-10) would not go away, thanks to junior guard Alex Berthiaume (game-high 25 points in a full 40 minutes).
Wisconsin 63, Ohio St. 60 - Jared Berggren scored Wisconsin’s final 5 points - including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left - and the 16th-ranked Badgers edged the eighth-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio.
Jordan Taylor had 19 points for Wisconsin (21-8, 10-6 Big Ten), while Deshaun Thomas paced Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) with 23 points.
Miami 78, Florida State 62 - Durand Scott scored 17 points as the host Hurricanes (17-10, 8-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a six-game losing streak to the 15th-ranked Seminoles in Coral Gables, Fla.
Miami played without starting center Reggie Johnson, declared ineligible by the school an hour before the game after an investigation revealed members of his family had received benefits not allowed under NCAA rules.
Louisville 57, Pittsburgh 54 - Russ Smith scored 18 points, Kyle Kuric added 17, and the 17th-ranked Cardinals (22-7, 10-6 Big East) held on to beat the Panthers at home.
Indiana 69, Minnesota 50 - Christian Watford, Victor Oladiopo, and Jordan Hulls each had 12 points as the 23d-ranked Hoosiers (22-7, 9-7 Big Ten) blew out the Gophers in Minneapolis.
Stony Brook 55, Maine 48 - Dallis Joyner scored 12 points as the host Seahawks (20-8, 14-2) captured their second America East regular-season title in the last three years.
UNH 58, Binghamton 49 - Alvin Abreu scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to power the Wildcats (13-15, 7-9 America East) in Durham, N.H.
NESCAC final - Taylor Barrise buried a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining to lead Amherst to a 71-69 win over Middlebury. The Lord Jeffs (25-2) earn the automatic bid to the Division 3 NCAA Tournament, while Middlebury (24-3) will likely receive an at-large selection.
Northeast-10 quarterfinals - Sophomore guard Akeem Williams scored 19 points, including the 1,000th of his career, to lead host UMass-Lowell (18-9) past Southern Conn., 86-68 . . . Andre Tongo scored 19 points, including 15 in the second half, as Stonehill (19-7) raced past Merrimack, 85-66, in Easton. David McLaughlin became the winningest coach in Stonehill history with his 172d victory . . . Ryen Vilmont and Ellis Cooper led four of five starters in double figures as Franklin Pierce (21-6) edged visiting Assumption, 55-50 . . . Richard Harkins scored all 15 of his points in the second half as host Adelphi (20-7) eliminated New Haven, 54-51.
Miami 88, BC 42 - Riquna Williams scored 20 points and Shenise Johnson added 19 as the fifth-ranked Hurricanes (25-4, 14-2 ACC) easily won their 40th straight at home.
Kristen Doherty scored 10 points for the Eagles (7-22, 2-14).
Maryland 65, N.C. State 50 - Alyssa Thomas scored 22 of her 24 points in the second half and added a career-high 17 rebounds for the sixth-ranked Terrapins (25-4, 12-4 ACC) in Raleigh, N.C.
Duke 69, North Carolina 63 - In Chapel Hill, N.C., Tricia Liston scored 15 points to help the seventh-ranked Blue Devils (24-4, 15-1) beat the rival Tar Heels (19-10, 9-7) and win the ACC regular-season championship outright.
Nebraska 71, Ohio St. 57 - At Lincoln, Neb., Emily Cady scored 24 points to match her career high and the 23d-ranked Cornhuskers (21-7, 10-6 Big Ten) handed the eighth-ranked Buckeyes (24-5, 11-5) their second loss in three games.
Delaware 89, Northeastern 71 - Elena Delle Donne scored 35 points as the ninth-ranked Blue Hens (26-1, 17-0 Colonial) won their 16th straight game, beating the Huskies in Newark, Del. Northeastern (7-21, 5-12), which had a three-game winning streak snapped, got 20 points from Jewel Tunstall.
Tennessee 75, Florida 59 - Glory Johnson had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the 10th-ranked Lady Vols (21-8, 12-4 SEC).
NESCAC final - Unbeaten Amherst claimed its third consecutive title and fourth in the last five years with a 65-39 win over visiting Tufts. The Lord Jeffs (27-0), who have won 46 straight games at LeFrak Gymnasium, got a game-high 17 points from Caroline Stedman.
Northeast-10 quarterfinals - Lauren Battista scored 13 of her team-high 15 points in the second half as top-seeded Bentley (25-3) defeated AIC, 67-53, in Waltham to reach 25 wins for the 18th time in the last 25 years . . . Marielle Giroud erupted for 27 points as Franklin Pierce (19-8) routed Southern New Hampshire, 85-66, in Rindge, N.H. . . . Pace, behind Kerri White (12 points), raced to an 8-0 lead and never looked back in beating Assumption, 60-50, in Pleasantville, N.Y. . . . Sylvonya Moore’s 17 points enabled host Southern Conn. to squeak past Saint Rose, 64-60, in overtime.
NEWMAC final - Sarah Collins had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Nicki Wurdeman became the first player in school history to eclipse 2,000 career points as top-seeded Babson (25-2) romped past Smith, 74-51, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division 3 tournament.