Ninth-ranked WPI turns back Salem State 84-72 in home opener
WORCESTER, Mass. -- WPI, ranked No. 9 in the country, did not disappoint in the Engineers' home opener against MASCAC power Salem State. The hosts turned back the resilient Vikings 84-72 to remain unbeaten in front of a large crowd at Harrington Auditorium.
WPI (3-0) received strong performances from junior Sam Longwell, who scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, while senior Ryan Kolb totaled 20 points in a versatile scoring effort, hitting two 3-pointers and going 7-for-9 from inside the arc.
Also contributing on the offensive end were sophomore point guard Aaron Davis, who had 11 points and seven assists, and classmate Zach Karalis, who chipped in 12 as the hosts shot 50.9 percent from the field, and 57.7 percent in the second half.
Along with a strong effort from the floor, WPI used 12 steals to cause 23 Salem State miscues which were converted into a 26-11 edge in points off turnovers. The Engineers also won assists 19 to 9 and committed just seven turnovers for the game. The Vikings (1-2) were able to offset their ball security problems by pulling in 39 rebounds versus only 25 for WPI.
The Engineers held the lead most of the night and went ahead right away 16 seconds in on a jumper by junior Domenick Mastascusa. Mastascusa ended the night with nine points, the other seven coming in the second half. He also reeled in seven rebounds.
Salem State took its only margin of the first half, 16-14, with 10:43 remaining in the opening period after sophomore guard Anthony Hodges put in consecutive layups.
Hodges had 18 points for the Vikings before fouling out with 7:12 left in the game.
Davis replied for the Engineers, draining a 3-pointer 44 seconds later to make it 17-16.
Hodges tied it up, 22-22, after another four-point burst 14 minutes into the game, but WPI responded by going on a 13-2 run to take its biggest lead of the first half. Kolb started and finished the rally, making it 35-24 after a layin with 2:57 left before the halftime intermission.
Davis contributed five points to the during the run and freshman Sean Doncaster chipped in four. Doncaster finished with nine points, going 5-of-6 from the foul line.
WPI held a 38-32 advantage heading into the second half, and had to fight off a wave of momentum from the Vikings, who took their final edge 48-47, five minutes into the second half on a trey by leading scorer Brian Ortiz, who had 21 points.
Hamed Akanni was another strong contributor for Salem State, recording a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Kolb returned to pace the hosts for good on their next possession after an Ortiz trifecta, and the Engineers slowly stretched the lead back to 11 with 6:16 to play, going ahead 70-59 on another basket by Kolb.
The home side never let their margin dip below seven thereafter, with Davis giving the Engineers their biggest advantage of the night 82-67 with 1:03 left as Salem State put them at the foul line late