Middlebury led by as many 18 points in the first half against Baruch en route to a 96-89 win in the championship game of the Rotary Tip-Off Tournament hosted by Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Bearcats made it a one possession game in the final minutes, but timely free throw shooting by the Panthers down the stretch sealed the win. Kizel was named the Tournament M.V.P., while Matt Daley earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
The Panthers (2-0) jumped out to a 23-5 lead, highlighted by 4-4 shooting from behind the arc as Hunter Merryman, Matt St. Amour, Dylan Sinnickson and Nate Bulluck each connected from long distance during the run. Middlebury’s lead hovered around 10 points until Granville Gittens put in a lay-up for Baruch, cutting the deficit to 40-34 with 4:15 left in the half. Later, the Bearcats twice cut the deficit to five points, but each time the Panthers responded with threes, one from Bulluck and another from Merryman as Middlebury took a 53-45 lead into intermission.
In the second half Gittens put on a memorable show for Baruch (1-1), scoring 19 of his game-high 34 points and nine of his game-high 14 rebounds in the second half. The Panther duo of Sinnickson and Kizel accounted for 28 of Middlebury’s 44 second half points, combining for 12 rebounds as the game tightened in the final minutes.
Baruch twice more made it a two possession game early in the second half, but Sinnickson answered with a lay-up and later a three to give the Panthers some breathing room on each occasion. Just inside the nine minute mark, Gittens took over during a 10-5 run, scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds and making a steal. A three by teammate Raymond De La Cruz made it a one possession game at 4:21, cutting the Middlebury lead to 81-78.
After a pair of free throws by Daley, Baruch’s Matt Feldman cut the lead to 83-81 on a three with just under four minutes left to play. Another Daley free throw followed by a lay-up by Daley gave Middlebury an 86-81 advantage before Gittens grabbed a Baruch miss and scored another basket at 2:34, making it a one possession game one more time. Kizel and Sinnickson answered with buckets for a 90-83 lead before Gittens answered with his only three-pointer of the game at 1:16.
After the three, Baruch called time out. St. Amour hit 1-2 free throws with 37 seconds left for Middlebury, but fouled Baruch’s Edward Roscigno, who hit both free throws with 29 ticks left. Trailing 91-88, the Bearcats fouled Middlebury on three straight possessions, but the Panthers went 5-6 from the line while Baruch went 0-3 from the floor, only hitting a single free throw.
Sinnickson finished with 22 points, hitting 4-5 from downtown, and a team high eight rebounds, while Kizel finished with a team-high 24 points, including 13 from the charity stripe, adding a game-best nine assists. Merryman finished with 15 points on 6-11 shooting, as Daley chipped in 11 on 4-5 shooting. The Panthers ended the game hitting 10-23 from behind the arc (.435), while shooting .464 from the floor.
Gittens finished with a game-high 34 points off the bench, hitting 13-22 shots from the floor, adding a game-high 14 rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Roscigno finished with a dozen points, while Joshua Vital chipped in 10 points.