Kates engineering MIT's run
By Brian Lester
|Mitchell Kates went 16-for-29
from the floor, 6-for-9 from three-point range and 12-for-14 from
the line in MIT's sectional weekend at F&M.
MIT photo by Tom Gearty
Mitchell Kates has had quite a run through the NCAA Tournament for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The junior guard has scored 20 or more three times, including a 29-point performance in an 83-67 win over Staten Island. His 21-point effort in a 69-54 win over Franklin and Marshall punched the Engineeers' ticket to the final four.
As remarkable as Kates has been in the postseason, the thing that is equally special is that Kates and his teammates have taken the Engineers to a place where the program has never been before.
When MIT takes the floor against UW-Whitewater at 8 p.m. ET Friday inside the Salem Civic Center, it will be the first time in school history that it has played in a national semifinal.
"It's very neat," Kates said. "We've had success here in the past, but it's exciting to know that we are the first team to get to the Final Four. We've set a new precedent here."
Larry Anderson has been coaching the Engineers for 17 seasons. In that time, he has led MIT to three New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference championships and four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
But until 2009, the Engineers had never won an NCAA Tournament game. That year, they beat Rhode Island College 73-68. Three years later, the Engineers will be playing on the biggest stage.
“We always had a vision of where we wanted to take this program,” Anderson said. “We believed we could get to this point and it’s a big accomplishment to make it. Our team has worked very hard to get to the Final Four.”
MIT enters the final weekend of the season riding a 13-game win streak. The Engineers are 29-1 overall and haven’t lost since an 80-68 setback to WPI on Jan. 21.
Since that time, the Engineers have not allowed more than 67 points in a game, and that improved defensive play has been key to their success.
“Our toughness on defense has gotten better,” Anderson said. “We also know where we need to be on the floor and we aren’t thinking as much. We are just going out and reacting to the situation.”
The Engineers are giving up 56.9 points per game and holding opponents to 38.2 percent shooting. Offensively, they are pouring in 75.8 points per outing and four players are clicking for double figures.
Senior center Noel Hollingsworth is averaging 17.5 points per outing. Kates is averaging 14.3 ppg and is also dishing out 5.4 assists per game. He has drilled 24 3-pointers.
Jamie Karraker is the most deadly shooter from the outside. The senior guard has knocked down 111 shots from beyond the arc and is averaging 13 points per outing. Junior forward Will Tashman is averaging 11.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Kates believes the success of the offense is a credit to the fact that there isn’t one player forced to carry the team on his back.
“We all know our roles and we play very well together,” Kates said. “It takes the pressure off and it’s nice to know that any of us can step up on any given night.”
Anderson said the fact that his team plays unselfish basketball has been important as well.
“We have talent on this team, and while that it is important, we have also been very unselfish,” Anderson said. “Our players will do what is best for the team, and it is part of the reason we have had success this year, especially in the tournament.”
It doesn’t hurt either that the Engineers are tight on and off the court.
“We have a close-knit group,” Anderson said. “These guys enjoy playing as a team and it’s been fun to watch. I also like the intensity this team plays with and the effort it gives every single game. They play hard every time they take the floor for a game.”
Although this is the first time the Engineers will play in a Final Four, Anderson doesn’t want his team to play tight or not enjoy the golden opportunity in front of it.
He understands a national semifinal carries a little more weight than just another game on the schedule, but at the same time, he isn’t changing much in terms of preparation.
“It’s still basketball,” Anderson said. “I want our guys to be loose and enjoy the moment. We have been treating each game as if it was the national championship game, so our preparation really isn’t going to be any different. We will be ready to play.”
Kates is looking forward to trying to help lead the Engineers to a national championship. Winning a title is something he and his teammates believed was possible since the first of practice, and now, the Engineers are on the cusp of a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.
“I am a little nervous because we are so close,” Kates said. “We’ve worked so hard to get here and are looking at this weekend as another four-game tournament. That is the way we approached the first two weekends. So far it’s worked out well for us. We can’t wait to play. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”