Middlebury edged by Bowdoin in a tightly-contested game by a 69-66 score Sunday afternoon and picked up a key NESCAC victory in its regular season home finale. The Panthers improve to 15-7 overall and move into a tie for third place in the conference with the Polar Bears at 5-3, while Bowdoin, ranked No. 18 nationally, falls to 18-3 and 5-3. The Panthers take to the road and will play Trinity on Friday at 8:00 p.m., while Bowdoin visits Bates at 8:00 p.m.
The Polar Bears won the opening tip and scored the first basket of the game. A few possessions later, Middlebury answered with a three-pointer by Joey Kizel on an assist from Luis Alvarez. Over the ensuing minutes, the teams traded baskets before Bowdoin's John Swords tied the game at 12-12 at the 12:38 mark. A 5-0 run thanks to an old-fashioned three-point play from Kizel and a jumper by Nate Bulluck gave the Panthers their largest lead of the opening half.
The Polar Bears continued to chip away at the deficit and turned a five-point Middlebury edge (21-16) with 8:43 remaining into a 28-26 lead on a jumper from Grant White at the 4:50 mark. At that point, the Panthers put together a 9-2 run over the ensuing 3:17 and again grabbed a five-point edge at 35-30 on a three-pointer from Hunter Merryman.
Out of the intermission, the hosts scored five of the first seven points and held their largest lead of the game at 42-34 on a three-pointer by Dylan Sinnickson with 18:45 left. Middlebury kept the Polar Bears at bay and again grabbed an eight-point edge at the 13:11 mark on a three-pointer by Kizel on an assist by Jake Brown. Not done, Bowdoin scored the next six points on threes by Lucas Hausman and Andrew Madlinger and sliced the Panther advantage to two at 50-48 with 11:27. Neither team held larger than a six-point edge as the two sides exchanged baskets down the stretch.
With the Panthers clinging to a three-point lead thanks to a Jack Roberts' free throw with eight seconds left, the Polar Bears called a timeout and set up a final attempt. Racing the ball up the court, Matt Mathias found White in the left corner and he knocked down a deep three tying the game at 66-66 with 2.2 seconds left. Immediately after the basket, the Bowdoin bench called another timeout when they had none remaining, thus inducing an automatic technical foul with Middlebury shooting two free throws and gaining possession of the ball.
With the game tied, Kizel stepped to the line and knocked down the first technical free throw but missed the second. Middlebury controlled possession of the ball and the Polar Bears fouled Kizel immediately after the ball was inbounded with 1.3 seconds left. This time, the Middlebury captain knocked down both charity tosses and gave the Panthers a 69-66 lead. A last-second game-tying attempt from halfcourt by Mathias was partially blocked by Jensen and fell short.
Kizel led four Panthers in double figures with 19 points to go along with five assists, while Sinnickson added 18 markers and a team-high eight boards. Roberts and Jensen both chipped in with 10 points apiece, while Roberts added seven rebounds.
Bowdoin was led by Swords' double-double of 16 points and a game-high 13 boards. White also had 16 markers, while Madlinger added 15.