Norton, Mass. - The fifth-seeded Clark
University men's basketball team held off number-four Wheaton
College's comeback on Wednesday in a New England Women's and Men's
Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament quarterfinal, picking up a
58-55 victory in Emerson Gymnasium.
The Lyons finish their season at 10-15, as each of the teams' past 11 meetings has been decided by eight points or less.
Now 14-12, the Cougars advance to their first semifinal since 2005, as they will face top seed and host Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is ranked 13th nationally. Game time on Saturday is set for 1:00 p.m.
Clark led 32-29 early in the second stanza before yielding a 4-0 Wheaton run in a matter of 12 seconds, as Brendan Degnan picked off the inbounds pass following a hoop by freshman Brian Johnson and scored to give the Lyons their first lead at 18:44. After the Cougars regained the lead 10 ticks later, Degnan hit a freebie at 17:35 that made it 34-all. However, Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) followed with a free throw, and Clark pushed its lead to as much as 53-42 with 6:26 remaining.
The Lyons scored 13 of the next 17 points, drawing within 57-55 with 8.4 seconds remaining after Weeks' driving lay-up. After Clark made one freebie with 6.1 ticks to go, Degnan intentionally missed his second free-throw try at 3.0 seconds before tracking down the loose ball in the corner, but his game-tying three-point attempt from near the Wheaton bench hit the far side of the rim and bounced out.
Wheaton held Clark to just one field goal over the final 6:25 after the visitors grabbed their 11-point lead, and the Cougars shot 3-of-11 on free-throw tries with five turnovers from that point until the final buzzer. The Blue and White was unable to fully take advantage, shooting 2-of-7 overall with four giveaways in that time despite turning in a 9-of-14 showing at the line.
Clark forged an early lead and took a 30-27 halftime advantage despite the Lyons going 5-of-9 from deep in the opening stanza, as the hosts committed 11 turnovers to the Cougars' four. Jack Minister (Manchester, England) scored five points in helping the visitors snag a 10-3 lead, but back-to-back threes by Degnan and Leo made it a one-point game at 14:16. The next seven points came from Clark, which held a 17-9 advantage by 10:34 on a Vayda jumper.
A 14-6 run in Wheaton's favor forced the first of three ties during a 1:47 span, as freshman P.J. Walters was the sixth different Lyon to tally in the stretch when he knotted the contest at 23 with 3:38 remaining. After the teams stood deadlocked at 27, Clark sophomore Mitch Renshaw (Rutland, Mass.) hit a free throw and a lay-up in the final 1:26 to complete the first-half scoring.
Senior Mark Alexander (Providence, R.I.) paced Clark with 12 points, as the Cougars went 9-of-16 from the floor in the second half but 8-of-17 at the charity stripe. Vayda had 11 points, eight boards and three steals, while Minister chipped in nine.
Degnan paced the hosts with game-highs of 15 points and four assists, and Leo added 10 points.