The Middlebury College men’s basketball led nearly the entire NESCAC opener against Bates Friday evening, but a late three-pointer from well behind the arc by Graham Safford lifted the Bobcats to a 64-61 victory in Pepin Gym. The Panthers continue NESCAC action Sunday afternoon when they play host to Tufts at 4:00 p.m.
The loss marks the second-straight at home for Middlebury following its 63-47 setback Tuesday evening against Plattsburgh State and the third-straight overall. It is also the longest losing streak for the Panthers since Middlebury lost the final six games at the conclusion of the 2005-06 season.
In the opening minutes, the two teams traded baskets with Middlebury possessing a one-point edge, 11-10, with 13:24 left. Over nearly the next three minutes of action, the Panthers turned that one-point lead into their largest of the contest with a 16-2 run, capped by a three-pointer from Dylan Sinnickson. Of note, Sinnickson provided 11 of the host’s points during the spurt including two shots from beyond the arc and an old-fashioned three-point play as part of his 17 first-half points.
The Bobcats (8-4, 1-0 NESCAC) chipped away at the Middlebury lead and cut it to seven, 27-20, on a jumper by Sean Cunningham with 7:41 showing on the clock. However, the Panthers (6-5, 0-1 NESCAC) knocked down a fast-break three from Hunter Merryman and a lay-up from Sinnickson on their next two possessions and maintained the double-digit advantage headed into the break, 36-25.
The second half played out like the first as both teams traded baskets and Middlebury held an eight-point lead, 42-34, with 13:21 left. Bates answered with a quick 6-0 run and pulled to within two (42-40) on a lay-up from Luke Matarazzo with 10:18 on the clock. The Panthers pulled away again with their own 9-0 run ended by two charity tosses from Sinnickson at 6:49 and led 51-40. In its finish push, Bates fought its way back and took its first lead of the game, 54-53, with 3:55 remaining on a tip-in by Malcolm Delpeche.
With 2:35 left, Middlebury’s Joey Kizel was fouled and stepped to the line hitting the first and tying the game, 56-56. He missed his second attempt, but grabbed his own miss and quickly stepped behind the three-point line knocking down his lone long ball for the contest, giving the Panthers a narrow lead. On the ensuing Bates possession, Adam Philpott responded with a three of his own and knotted the contest, 59-59. Matarazzo tallied a lay-up for Bates and Matt St. Amour sank two free throws setting up Safford’s final shot with 11.4 seconds left.
Sinnickson led all scorers with 23 points, while Kizel and Merryman also finished in double figures for the Panthers with 12 and 11, respectively. Additionally, Kizel corralled a team-best seven rebounds. For Bates, Safford paced three in double digits with 18, while Delpeche added 17 points and a game-high nine boards.