Middlebury held off a late charge by Rensselaer (3-2), improving to 4-1 on the year with a 79-72 victory over the Engineers in Pepin Gym. The Panthers return to action on Wednesday night when they host Johnson State at 7:00 p.m., while RPI visits Norwich for a game against Bridgewater State in a tournament contest on Saturday.
Middlebury jumped out to a 10-2 lead early behind four points from Adisa Majors. The lead was later cut to seven (22-15), before a 7-0 spurt, anchored by a conventional three-point play from Bryan Jones, gave the home team a 29-15 lead with 7:50 left in the first half. Trailing 33-19 at the 5:07 mark, RPI went on a 9-2 run, capped by a three from Jonathan Luster, making it a 35-28 game with 1:49 remaining. A bucket from Middlebury's Jake Brown as time expired gave the Panthers a 41-32 lead at the break.
Middlebury led by as many as 17 in the second half, with a three from Matt St. Amour giving them a 58-41 advantage with 13:53 remaining. The Engineers began to chip away at the 11:17 mark when trailing 62-48. The 11-2 run began with a two and at three from Tom Horvat and was capped by a jumper from Luster, making it a 64-59 game with 7:31 left to play.
The Panthers gained a bit of breathing room with a quick 6-0 spurt behind a hoop from Brown, a steal and layup from Zach Baines, as well as a steal by St. Amour with Jack Daly converting. The 75-64 lead at the 5:20 mark didn't last long as RPI scored the game's next eight points to close the gap to 75-72 with 2:05 left to play. The Engineers had the ball trailing by three with 1:08 remaining, but a missed shot and a big bucket in the paint from Majors gave Middlebury a lead it would not relinquish - 77-72 with 33 seconds remaining.
St. Amour led all scorers with 22 points (17 second half), including 4-9 shooting from three-point range to go along with six rebounds. Baines went 7-14 to earn a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Brown and Daly each scored 10 points and earned four assists apiece. Majors finished with eight points and six boards, while Daly also added three steals.
Andreas Kontopidis led RPI with 21 points and five rebounds, going 5-10 from behind the arc. Luster added 17 points, Brian Hatcher scored 11, while Horvat chipped in with 10. The Engineers went 19-21 from the free-throw line, converting 12-13 in the first half.