A block from Middlebury's Matt St. Amour on a potential game-winning three-point field goal in the final seconds lifted the Panthers to a thrilling 72-71 victory Saturday over Skidmore in a boisterous Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (7-1) take time off the holidays before playing Illinois Wesleyan on Thursday, December 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the opening game of the College of Staten Island Tournament of Heroes. Skidmore (5-3) hosts Vassar on Friday, December 30 at 4:00 p.m.
The game was close in the early minutes with neither team taking a bigger lead than four points over the first 6:18 of play. Ahead by three at 16-13, Middlebury tallied eight quick points in a span of 1:23 on back-to-back three-point field goals from Bryan Jones and Jake Brown along with a jumper from Nick Tarantino, for a 24-13 advantage. Skidmore chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to three at 28-25 on a bucket by Edvinas Rupkus with 6:51 remaining.
Over the next 4:49 of action, Middlebury scored the next 11 points, capped off a pair of free throws from Brown, for a 39-25 edge at the 2:02 mark. Brown tallied eight points during the spurt, including a pair of threes. The Panther advantage grew to as many as 17 (45-28) on a layup from Matt Folger with 43 seconds left in the opening half, but an old-fashioned three-point play in the final seconds by Skidmore's Pat Gallagher cut the deficit to 45-31 going to the locker room.
Out of the break, the Thoroughbreds opened the second stanza scoring 12 of the first 14 points, slicing the Middlebury edge to 47-43 on a pair of free throws by Rupkus with 16:17 remaining. The Panthers maintained a lead of four to eight points over the next few minutes, securing a six-point advantage (64-58) on a jumper from Folger with 8:26 on the clock.
The Thoroughbreds put together a 9-0 run over a span of 4:20, grabbing just their second lead of game on a three from Aldin Medunjanin with 4:06 on the clock. St. Amour tied the contest on the ensuing Middlebury possession with a deep three from the left wing. The teams traded leads over the next few minutes before Brown gave the Panthers the lead (72-71) for good on a running floater in the lane with 1:16 left. Following empty possessions by both teams, the visitors called timeout with 16 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, a deep game-winning attempt from the left wing by Skidmore's Royce Paris was blocked by St. Amour, sealing the Panther one-point home victory.
Brown led three Panthers in double figures with a career-high 22 points on 9-13 shooting to go along with a game-high nine assists. Zach Baines and St. Amour each finished with 11 points, while St. Amour grabbed six rebounds, handed out four assists and tied for game-high honors with four steals. Adisa Majors pulled down five rebounds and tied St. Amour with four steals.
Rupkus paced the Thoroughbreds with 16 points, going 6-8 from the floor in addition to three steals, while Marcus Jackson and Paris both added 13. Medunjanin tacked on nine points for the visitors and added a team-best four assists.