The Middlebury women's basketball team pulled away in the fourth quarter from visiting Rensselaer on Wednesday, earning a 64-54 win during its home opener in Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers remain unbeaten at 5-0 and return to action on Friday when they travel to Colby-Sawyer for a 5:30 p.m. game, while Rensselaer (3-3) hosts Clarkson on the same day.
The Engineers grabbed a 9-2 lead at the 6:44 mark of the opening quarter on a three-point field goal by Elizabeth Eckhardt. The Panthers responded with a 13-0 run spanning 5:20 of action, highlighted by eight points from Betsy Knox, for a 15-9 lead with 1:24 remaining. After a pair of free throws from Rensselaer's LaKissa Martin, Kira Waldman knocked down a three on Middlebury's next possession for an 18-11 lead after one quarter.
In the second stanza, the Engineers slowly chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to just two (23-21) with 2:16 left on a layup by Sierra Carr. Three-consecutive layups by Knox pushed the Panther advantage to eight at 29-21, but a basket from Eckhardt cut the Middlebury lead to six headed into the locker room. Knox poured in 17 points on 7-11 shooting from the floor in the opening half for the Panthers.
Out of the break, Middlebury grabbed a six-point edge on a jumper from Sabrina Weeks with 7:10 showing on the clock. A three by Eckhardt pulled Rensselaer back to within three on the ensuing possession. After the teams traded baskets, a pair of free throws from Maya Davis gave Middlebury a five-point lead (35-30) with 3:25 remaining. The Engineers finished the quarter with six-straight points, including a layup at the end of the stanza from Kate Goodell, taking their first lead at 36-35 since the opening frame.
Trailing 40-39 with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter, back-to-back threes from Alex Huffman and Weeks sparked a 16-5 run for Middlebury over the next 4:58 for a 10-point advantage (55-45). With Rensselaer forced to foul, the Panthers converted 9-10 free throws over the final minutes en route to the double-digit win.
Knox paced Middlebury with career-high totals of 23 points and nine rebounds, while Huffman chipped in with 13 points and Weeks added 10 points. Davis recorded eight points and eight rebounds, while Huffman added six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals in the win. Weeks concluded her night with a career-best five blocked shots for the hosts.
Martin led the Engineers with 19 points, including 9-10 at the free-throw line, to go along with three steals, while Eckhardt added 15 points. Goodell yanked down a game-high 12 rebounds for the visitors.
Both teams were stellar at the free-throw line, as Middlebury knocked down 18-20 attempts for 90 percent, while Rensselaer converted 11-12 charity tosses for 91.7 percent.