Babson Park, Mass. – Host Babson College built a 21-point lead midway through the second half and then withstood a furious Clark University comeback attempt as the Beavers held on to defeat the visiting Cougars, 71-64, in the first New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) men's basketball contest of the season for both teams on Wednesday night.
With the win, Babson snapped a five-game slide and improved to 8-5 overall (1-0 NEWMAC), while Clark saw its record drop to 7-6 on the season (0-1 NEWMAC).
Sophomore Matt Palazini (Franklin, Mass.) led all players with 20 points – 17 of which came in the first half. Junior Alex Rudolph (Bal Harbour, Fla.) added 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, and senior captain Matt Florio (Skillman, N.J.) finished with eight points and a game-high eight assists.
First-year David Mack (Holden, Mass.) added a big game off the bench with nine points and five rebounds, including seven straight points during a pivotal 18-2 run midway through the second half.
Clark was led by senior forward D.J. Bailey (Palmer, Mass.), who scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and a 2-of-3 clip from the line, and senior Travis Curley (Trumbull, Conn.), who joined him in double figures with 11 points.
Babson used a 9-0 run midway through the first half to open up a 22-12 lead, but the Cougars answered with a 12-2 burst to cut their deficit to just two at 26-24 with under five minutes to go. The Beavers then closed the period by scoring 12 of the final 16 points to take a 38-28 cushion into the break. Palazini netted the final five points of the stanza, including his fifth three-pointer of the half just before time expired.
An 8-0 Clark run early in the second frame sliced the Beavers' lead to just five at 43-38 with 15:25 left, but a lay-up by junior Peter Foley (Wells, Maine) followed by seven straight points from Mack sparked an 18-2 Babson run that would prove to be the difference in the game. Rudolph also came up big during that stretch, scoring the final six points to push the hosts' lead to 21 at 61-40 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Clark refused to go quietly, as a conventional three-point play and a jumper by Curley ignited a quick 10-0 run that pulled the visitors back to within 11 (61-50) with a little more than five minutes to go. A Rudolph jumper and two free throws from junior Russell Braithwaite (Brooklyn, N.Y.) in the next minute gave the Beavers some more breathing room, but Clark surged again thanks to a 12-1 run over a three-minute span. Senior Drew Billington (Fairfield, Conn.) and Curley each knocked down clutch three-pointers during the barrage, with Curley's capping it and making it a four-point game, 66-62, with 1:11 remaining.
Following a Babson turnover, Clark had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but a missed three-pointer sailed out of bounds with 43 seconds left. The Cougars were then forced to foul junior guard Marcus McDermott (Milton, Mass.), who sank the second of two free throws to make it a five-point game with 31.1 on the clock. Another Clark misfire from long range gave the ball back to the Beavers, and Florio all but sealed the victory when he swished a pair from the line to make it 69-62 with 17.0 seconds left. Renshaw scored on a put-back for the Cougars with five ticks remaining before Florio took a full-court pass and converted the easy lay-up for the 71-64 final.
Clark is off until next Wednesday when they host Wheaton College at 7:00 p.m.
Release Courtesy of Babson College Sports Information