BABSON PARK, Mass. – Sophomore Alex Rudolph (Bal Harbour, Fla.) scored a game-high 20 points and junior captain Matt Florio (Skillman, N.J.) added 13 to lift the Babson College men's basketball team to a thrilling 50-49 victory over visiting Wheaton College in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action at Staake Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Beavers improve to 7-8 overall and 2-2 in the conference, while the Lyons dip to 6-8 overall and 2-2 in the NEWMAC.
Rudolph shot 8-of-17 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line for his 20, while he and Florio each knocked down a pair of three-pointers. Sophomore Peter Foley (Wells, Maine) and first-year Joe Zavertnik (Plantation, Fla.) both played well off the bench for the Beavers, with Foley leading the team with eight rebounds and Zavertnik adding seven boards and two blocked shots.
Wheaton was paced by senior captain Anthony Coppola (Watertown, Mass.), who matched Rudolph's game-high 20 points while hitting 7-of-19 from the field, including 6-of-12 from three-point range. Junior captain Brendan Degnan (Narragansett, R.I.) chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists, and first-year Will Bayliss (Manchester, N.H.) tossed in eight points to go with four boards and three assists.
The Lyons led for the first 12 minutes of the contest, thanks in part to a quick 8-0 start that featured back-to-back threes by Coppola. Babson would eventually pull even after a pair of free throws by junior Kris Noonan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine) made it 17-17 with 8:03 left in the period, and shortly after a three-pointer by Florio gave the Beavers their first lead of the game, 20-17. Wheaton would then close the half with an 8-2 run to take a 25-22 advantage into the break.
Neither team would lead by more than five in a back-and-forth second half, which opened with a 6-2 Babson run that briefly put the hosts in front at 28-27. It remained a one possession game until the 10-minute mark, when a Rudolph jumper gave Babson its largest lead of the contest, 39-34.
The Lyons eventually evened the contest, 41-41, on a three-pointer by Coppola with seven minutes left in the game, but Babson sophomore Russell Braithwaite (Brooklyn, N.Y.) answered with a conventional three-point play to put the Beavers in front to stay. Wheaton sophomore Brian Johnson (Roxbury, Mass.) then scored three of the game's next four points from the free throw line as the visitors pulled to within one, 45-44, with four minutes remaining, and it would remain a one-point game with neither team scoring for the next two-and-a-half minutes.
Rudolph broke the scoreless drought with the biggest shot of the contest with 1:37 left to play, as he drained a clutch three from the right corner off a Braithwaite pass in traffic with just two seconds left on the shot clock. Degnan would cut Wheaton's deficit back to two with a runner in the lane that made it 48-46 with 1:16 left, but Florio split a pair of defenders on the left side and converted an easy lay-up to push the Beavers' advantage back to four, 50-46, with 55 seconds on the clock.
Coppola drained his sixth trifecta of the game from the top of the key with 42 seconds left, bringing the Lyons back to within one at 50-49. After missing a jumper on the Beavers' ensuing possession, Rudolph came up big on the defensive end when he took the ball away from a driving Degnan in heavy traffic under the hoop and was immediately fouled with 4.8 seconds remaining. Wheaton then called timeout after rebounding Rudolph's free throw miss with 4.2 seconds left, but the Babson defense would not allow Degnan to get off a shot before the buzzer sounded as the Beavers held on for the 50-49 victory.