A 14-0 run spanning 7:07 in the second half propelled 16th-ranked Middlebury (11-3, 3-1) to a 78-63 NESCAC victory Saturday over Tufts in Pepin Gym. The Panthers play the third contest of their current five-game homestand with a Tuesday matchup against Albertus Magnus at 7:00 p.m., while the Jumbos (12-4, 3-1) host Bates next Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
Both teams struggled to find their respective shooting touches in the opening minutes. Ahead by one at 9-8 with 13:59 left, the Jumbos rattled off an 8-2 run over a span of 3:25, grabbing a 17-10 advantage on a three-point field goal from Justin Kouyoumdjian with 10:34 remaining. The Panthers slowly chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to 27-26 on a jumper from Nick Tarantino at the 5:17 mark.
Tufts quickly blew the lead back to double figures via an 11-2 run capped on a jumper from Kouyoumdjian, for a 38-28 lead with just under three minutes remaining. Middlebury recorded the final eight points of the stanza, moving to within two (38-36) at the half on a layup from Jack Daly.
Out of the break, four quick points by the hosts gave them a 40-38 advantage. Once again, both teams struggled from the floor to find the shooting touch, as the Panthers maintained a lead of between two and five. An old-fashioned three-point play from KJ Garrett at the 13:15 mark moved the visitors to within one (52-51). The Panthers tallied the decisive 14-0 run over a span of 7:07, capped off by a pair of free throws from Daly, for a 66-51 lead at the 6:08 mark. Eric McCord had four points for Middlebury during the run.
The Jumbos tallied a 9-2 run over the next few minutes, pulling to within eight at 68-60 on a three-point play from Eric Savage with 2:06 on the clock. Middlebury knocked down all six of its free throws over the final minutes en route to the double-digit win.
Daly led the Panthers with 16 points and six assists to go along with seven rebounds, while Folger added 15 points and eight boards. McCord had a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, while Hilal Dahleh finished with eight points and six rebounds. Griffin Kornaker handed out a career-high six helpers, while Tarantino tacked on six points, five boards and a team-best three blocks.
Garrett paced the Jumbos with 20 points and nine rebounds off the bench in 24 minutes. Kouyoumdjian was also in double figures with 11 points. Vincent Pace, the NESCAC's leading scorer at over 18 points per game, was held to just two points on 1-9 shooting, but did pull down eight rebounds and have three blocked shots.
The Panthers owned a 70-41 rebounding advantage, coming up just one short of the single-game program record of 71 rebounds set on February 6, 1988 against New England College. Both sides struggled from the floor, as the Panthers knocked down 34.1 percent (28-82) of their shots and Tufts converted 31.5 percent (23-73). Middlebury made 18 of its 23 free throws, while the Jumbos were 9-15 at the charity stripe.