Middlebury held Tufts without a field goal for the game’s final 8:31 as the Panthers (7-5, 1-1) earned an 80-66 win over the Jumbos (6-6, 0-1) in a NESCAC contest played in Pepin Gym. Middlebury returns to action on Tuesday night at Lyndon State, while Tufts visits Newbury.
The Panthers took a 15-9 lead in the first half on a three from Matt St. Amour, with Joey Kizel earning his fourth assist on the team’s first six buckets. A 6-0 Tufts' run capped by a put-back dunk by Hunter Sabety tied the game at 15-15 with 11:47 remaining. The teams exchanged leads with the Jumbos taking their biggest advantage of the half at 38-33 on a jumper from Stephen Haladyna with 1:14 remaining. Kizel scored on the other end as Tufts took a 38-35 lead into the break.
Sabety had an impressive first half for the Jumbos, going 8-8 for 16 points as the Jumbos held a 21-12 advantage on the boards with both teams shooting 50 percent or better from the floor.
With the game tied at 41-41, Tufts went on a 9-2 spurt, taking a 50-43 advantage on a bucket from Tarik Smith with 14:39 remaining. The Jumbos put the Panthers into the bonus situation at the free throw line with 14:10 remaining in the half, with Middlebury connecting on 16-18 throughout the remainder of the game.
Ben Ferris converted a three-point play with 8:31 remaining, earning Tufts its final field goal of the game and put them up 64-60. The Panther defense clamped down, forcing the Jumbos to miss their final 13 shots attempted from the floor.
A 9-0 run following the Ferris bucket gave Middlebury a 69-64 lead with 5:33 left to play. The Jumbos came within three on a pair of free throws from Ferris with 3:06 remaining, but would not score again as the Panthers closed the game on an 11-0 run. A big three from Matt Daley down the stretch gave Middlebury some breathing room.
Kizel led five Panthers in double figures with 17 points and a game-high six assists in the victory. Daley, Hunter Merryman and Dylan Sinnickson each scored 15 points, with a dozen from St. Amour. Jack Roberts earned seven rebounds and three blocks for the Panthers, while Jake Brown dished out five assists.
Ferris earned a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds for Tufts, with Sabety going 0-1 in the second half to finish with 16 points. Kwame Firempong added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Jumbos.
The game had little flow with a combined 48 fouls whistled, 33 of them coming in the second half. The Panthers went 25-of-31 (.806) from the line, while the Jumbos converted just 11-of-21 (.524).