The Middlebury men's basketball team opened the 2016-17 season with a convincing 82-55 victory over Salem State (1-1) in its first game at the 35th Eastern Connecticut State Tip-Off Tournament in Geissler Gymnasium. The 24th-ranked Panthers return to action on Saturday afternoon when they face the host Warriors, an 87-70 victor over the Sage Colleges, at 3:00 p.m. in the championship game.
The Vikings scored the game's first points on a three-point field goal from Shaquan Murray with 19:07 left. The Panthers put together a 20-5 run over the next 6:33 of action, capped off on a layup from Nick Tarantino, for a 20-8 lead with 12:34 remaining in the half. Salem State slowly chipped away, cutting the Panther edge to four (24-20) on a jumper by Marcus Faison at the 8:14 mark.
Middlebury pushed the lead back out to double digits via a 12-0 run over a 3:35 for a 36-20 lead. Adisa Majors had four points during the spurt, while four other Panthers recorded a bucket. The advantage grew to as many as 21 (46-25) just seconds before halftime on a layup from Eric McCord. The Panthers shot 59.5 percent (22-37) in the opening half with 34 points in the paint, while limiting the Vikings to just 27.8 percent (10-26) from the floor.
Out of the intermission, Zach Baines tallied the first points of the second half with a layup to put his team up by 23. The lead ballooned to 28 on a three-point field goal from Bryan Jones, giving the Panthers a 60-32 advantage with 11:46 remaining. The Vikings never were able to cut the deficit under 21 over the remainder of the contest, as Middlebury cruised to the season-opening win.
Baines led a balanced attack which saw 11 Panthers score. He poured in a career-high 22 points in the victory, going 10-13 from the floor to go along with six rebounds and three blocked shots. Majors was also in double figures with 12 points, while McCord netted 10 in 17 minutes on 4-7 shooting with five boards. Jack Daly had a huge all-around game for Middlebury, finishing with nine points, game-best totals of 11 rebounds and five steals to go along with six assists.
Faison finished with 17 points to lead the Vikings along with five rebounds. Stephen Bouyer added nine points off the bench, while Tyreik McCauley yanked down a team-best nine rebounds.
The Panthers finished the contest shooting nearly 52 percent from the field (36-70), while limiting Salem State to just 29.6 percent (21-71). Middlebury won the rebounding battle 47-39, and scored 46 points in the paint to just 14 for the Vikings.