Middlebury utilized a 21-5 run over a span of 5:27 in the latter stages of the first half on its way to a 97-80 win over Trinity on Saturday afternoon in Pepin Gym. With the victory, 13th-ranked Middlebury (20-3, 8-2) finished tied for first with Tufts in the NESCAC standings (8-2) and will be the #2 seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament due to the Jumbos victory on January 13. The Panthers will host a NESCAC quarterfinal game next weekend with an opponent and time to be determined. Middlebury concludes the regular-season portion of their schedule with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday at Plattsburgh State, while Trinity (15-9, 6-4) will play in a NESCAC Quarterfinal next weekend.
The opening 12 minutes of play saw neither team maintain greater than a seven-point advantage with three ties and three lead changes. A lay-up by Trinity's Langdon Neal cut the Panther lead to four at 25-21 with 7:53 left in the first half. The Panthers blew the game open with the deciding 21-5 run. Matt St. Amour produced eight points during the spurt, while Bryan Jones had five. Jones concluded the run and gave the hosts a 20-point advantage (46-26) on a three-point field goal with 2:26 remaining in the stanza.
The Bantams responded with a 10-2 spurt of their own, cutting the Panther edge to 12 (48-36) on a free throw by Eric Gendron with 14 seconds left. Middlebury closed the half with a lay-up by Eric McCord on a putback for a 14-point lead headed into the break.
Out of the intermission, a three from Jones on the first possession gave the Panthers a 17-point advantage. The Bantams chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to nine (62-53) on a layup from Gendron with 14:58 showing on the clock.
Middlebury answered with a 17-5 run over the ensuing seven minutes, pulling ahead 79-58 on a three from Jack Daly with 8:01 left. The Panthers maintained a near 20-point lead over the remainder of the contest, pushing it to as many as 22 (94-72) on a lay-up from Nick Tarantino with just over three minutes left, cruising to the win.
St. Amour finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-16 shooting from the floor and 4-5 from behind the arc. With his 28 points, he jumped two spots up the program's career point list, moving into fourth place with 1,515 points, surpassing both Joey Kizel '14 (1,493) and Kevin Kelleher '80 (1,498).
Daly finished with a near triple-double with 19 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and nine assists. Jones netted 16 points with four threes in his first career start, while Tarantino chipped in with 10 points. McCord had a solid all-around game with eight points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Jeremy Arthur led Trinity with 19 points, including four threes. Ed Ogundeko scored 14 on 6-10 shooting and pulled down a team-best nine rebounds, while Gendron added 11 points. Kyle Padmore chipped in with eight points off the bench.
With Saturday's victory, the Panthers have eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.