The Middlebury men's basketball team capped off a perfect opening weekend, winning 83-74 over the host school in the 35th Eastern Connecticut State Tip-Off Tournament Saturday. The 24th-ranked Panthers (2-0) are in Pepin Gymnasium for their home opener on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against SUNY New Paltz.
Middlebury's Zach Baines was selected as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, finishing the two contests with 37 points and 18 rebounds. Jake Brown (17 points and 12 assists) and Matt St. Amour (25 points) earned spots on the all-tournament team for their efforts in the two games.
The Warriors (1-2) got off to a fast start, scoring the initial five points of the contest with Carlos Gonzalez getting the opening bucket from behind the three-point arc. After a basket by Hugh Lindo put the hosts in front 5-0, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run. St. Amour connected twice from three-point range and Adisa Majors added a pair of field goals as Middlebury jumped in front 10-5 in an even four minutes of action.
Eastern Connecticut State countered by scoring the next eight points to reclaim the lead (13-10), but the Panthers responded. A lay-up on a fast break by Bryan Jones closed the gap to a point and a jumper by Eric McCord put the Panthers back in front (14-13). A lay-up by St. Amour and a trey by Jones pushed the difference to six at 19-13 with 10:36 left in the half.
The game tightened up in the final 7:17 of the first half as the teams were tied on five occasions, but a three-point field goal in the final minute by ECSU's Brenden Young gave the hosts a 38-37 lead at the half.
The Panthers started the second stanza with a 7-2 run to jump back into the lead at 44-40 after four minutes of play. St. Amour and Baines each connected from the floor, while Brown hit twice from the foul line and Jack Daly added another from the charity stripe.
The Warriors battled back to tie the game at 52-52 with 10:17 left in regulation, but Middlebury used two free throws by Brown to forge back into the lead. That was the first of several ties before the Panthers pulled away in the final five minutes.
The hosts led 63-62 with 6:41 left, but the Panthers took over from there. Matt Folger put Middlebury in front for good with a lay-up and Majors followed with another basket to quickly make it a three-point difference.
The Panthers maintained that lead and sealed the victory when St. Amour and Baines each hit from behind the three-point arc. The trey by Baines gave Middlebury its first double-digit advantage (78-67) of the game with 1:32 left on the clock. The hosts made a couple of buckets in the final seconds, bringing the final margin back to single digits.
St. Amour led all players in the win with 22 points, including a 4-8 effort from three-point range, while Baines recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards. Majors added 14 points for the Panthers and Brown netted 12 with five assists.
For the Warriors, Lindo had a big game, recording a team high in both points (19) and rebounds (15), while Brown added 12 points.