MILWAUKEE – The MSOE men's basketball team had to overcome a nine-point first-half deficit, then grind out the final minutes to defeat Illinois Tech 63-55 Saturday afternoon at Hotchkin Arena.
The Raiders (7-1, 3-1 NACC) seized the lead for good midway through the opening half but battled down the stretch to hold off the Scarlet Hawks (3-5, 1-3 NACC).
Junior Matthew Kirmse finished with 16 points, thanks to a 7-for-8 clip at the free throw line. He also pulled down six rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. Senior Jason Palesse added 10 points and eight rebounds. Junior Jake Gebert finished with nine points and eight boards.
Jake Digiorgio led IIT with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Two more players scored nine points while Max Hisatake finished with eight points and 13 rebounds.
Illinois Tech threatened to pull away in the first half as the Red & White led 8-7 before the Scarlet Hawks went on a 12-2 run to open a 19-10 lead at the 12:09 mark at the frame.
A timeout proved to be just the remedy as the Raiders came out of the respite and kicked off a 16-2 run with 11-straight points and jumped ahead 26-21 just over seven minutes later.
The teams then went back and forth at each other and MSOE maintained a lead at 34-30 at halftime.
After halftime, the Scarlet Hawks pulled within 39-38 before the Red & White made some breathing room with a 7-1 run to make it 46-39. The lead peaked at nine points heading into the final minutes during which both teams went through an extended shooting drought.
When Gebert hit a layup with 1:39 to make it 58-50 Raiders, it snapped a skid of 5:04 without a field goal. Meanwhile, an Ahmad Muhammad jumper with inside the final minute capped the visitor's cold spell at 4:57. The bucket also made it a 59-55 game with 47 seconds to play.
MSOE made 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch and Kirmse picked up a block to ice the game and ensure that would be as close as Illinois Tech got.
The Raiders pounded the ball inside, outscoring IIT 36-16 in the paint. They shot 44.4 percent and attempted just eight 3-pointers, making two. MSOE also went 13-for-18 at the free throw line. Illinois Tech shot just 33.3 percent for the game, including 24.1 percent in the second half. The visitors made 6-of-19 three-pointers and just 9-of-19 free throws.
The Red & White also won the battle on the boards against the league's top rebounding team (+11.3), 40-38.
The Raiders return to the floor Thursday, hosting Maranatha at 7 p.m.