STANDISH, ME – WPI (12-0) trailed early but utilized a first-half offensive surge to push past Saint Joseph's (6-3), 58-45, in non-conference men's basketball action at the Harold Alfond Center on Wednesday afternoon.
The Monks, who entered the game having won three straight, jetted out to an 8-2 lead thanks to Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) and Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) three-pointers in the opening three minutes. The early advantage would not last long however, as the visiting Engineers – ranked 18th in the latest D3hoops.com national poll – put up 11 unanswered points to secure a lead they would not relinquish.
St. Joe's managed to maintain a minimum deficit at first, as Medeiros drained a three at the 12:19 mark and freshman Jerome Diggs (Centreville, Va.) pilfered a loose ball and finished the play with a fast-break dunk to knot the contest at 13-apiece 18 seconds later.
But WPI freshman Zach Karalis (North Andover, Mass.) propelled the Engineers to a 9-0 run with seven points during the four-minute outbreak, which the first-year guard capped with a trifecta to extend the visitors' lead to 22-13 with 8:09 before the break.
Trailing 28-15, junior forward Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) tried to give his team a lift with a dunk at the 3:35 mark of the opening half. Unfazed, the Engineers methodically added to their cushion and carried a 33-19 advantage into intermission.
In the first half, Saint Joseph's shot 38.1% (8-21) from the field and 27.3% (3-11) from downtown without making an attempt from the charity stripe. WPI countered by shooting 41.2% (14-34) overall and 25% (3-12) from beyond the arch while connecting on a pair of freebie bids.
Medeiros led all first-half scorers with 10 points while junior forward Ryan Kolb (Southington, Conn.) paced the Engineers with nine points and six boards in the opening 20 minutes.
The start of the second half was promising for the Monks, as the hosts outscored the visitors by a 13-4 margin in the first 6:40 following the break. Medeiros capped the run with a three-pointer at the 13:20 mark to cut the deficit down to five points, 37-32, but WPI countered with a Kolb bucket and a Karalis three over the subsequent two minutes to make it a 10-point game.
The Monks would cut the Engineers' lead to single digits on several occasions during the remainder of the contest, but a nine-point discrepancy was as close as the Royal Blue would get to the lead on this day.
For Saint Joseph's, Medeiros netted a game-high 16 points, Diggs scored seven, Jobin produced six points and a game-best nine rebounds in a losing effort.
Kolb led four WPI players reaching double-digits with 13 points and eight caroms while Karalis and Marco Coppola (Watertown, Mass.) added 11 points apiece for the visitors. Sophomore forward Domenick Mastascusa (North Reading, Mass.) came off the bench to tally 10 points and five boards and was 5-7 from the field on the afternoon.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot a season-low 36% (18-50) from the field and went 6-20 (30%) from three-point distance while making all three free throw attempts in the loss. WPI shot 41% (25-61) from the floor, 20.8% (5-24) from downtown and 75% (3-4) from the charity stripe on the day.
Featuring a roster with 11 players standing 6'3 or taller, the Engineers outscored the Monks in the paint by a 30-18 margin, including an 18-6 lead under the bucket in the first half. WPI also held a 24-12 lead in bench points.
With the loss, Saint Joseph's falls to 0-3 in the history of the series with Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The Engineers are off to their best start to a season in program history and have won 14 straight games dating back to the end of last season. The win streak also ties the institution's all-time record.
For the Monks, 58 points allowed is the fewest surrendered in a loss since Anna Maria College defeated the Royal Blue by a 53-50 score on January 30th, 2012. With today's offensive output, Saint Joseph's has scored 45 or fewer points in a game just seven times in the history of the program, which encapsulates 42 seasons, or 1,109 contests.
Saint Joseph's resumes play on Saturday with a 3:00 PM conference contest at Norwich University. WPI also returns to action on Saturday when the Engineers kick off NEWMAC play with a home game versus Babson College at 3:00 PM.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.