Middlebury had three players finish with 18 points as the Panthers advanced to the second round in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament with an 84-75 triumph over Farmingdale State on Friday in a sold out Pepin Gymnasium. Middlebury will play Lycoming, an 86-70 winner over Cabrini in the night's opening game, in the regional final on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The sixth-ranked Panthers (25-3) extended their winning streak to 12-straight games, while the Rams cap their season at 20-8.
Farmingdale State jumped out to an early advantage, sinking a pair of baskets in the opening two minutes. Weldon Irvine sank a jumper for the first, while Trey Kinard made a three pointer for a 5-0 lead. Middlebury later closed the gap to 17-16, following back-to-back buckets in the paint by Adisa Majors, but Farmingdale State responded with an 8-0 run. Matthew Graham accounted each point in that burst as the Rams pushed the lead to 25-16 with 7:07 on the clock.
The Panthers crept closer with a 12-2 run as Jack Daly provided the spark. Daly netted six-straight points for the hosts before dishing off a nice assist to Matt Folger on a fast break, cutting the deficit to 27-24. Another field goal in transition by Daly made it a one-point game and Folger gave Middlebury its first lead of the contest (28-27) with a jumper from the wing 3:12 before the half. The Rams closed out the opening 20 minutes of play scoring 10 of the final 14 points to take a 36-32 lead into the break.
Middlebury needed just 52 seconds of play in the second half to pull even at 36-36, with Daly dropping a runner in the paint and Eric McCord scoring in transition. After Farmingdale State took a 40-36 lead on two free throws by Ali Mableton, the Panthers began to take over. McCord sank a pair from the foul line and Jake Brown slashed to the hoop for a layup, knotting the game at 40-40. The lead extended to 46-40 on a field goal by Majors, but it was a pair of shots from long range that gave Middlebury some separation. Folger sank a three from the left corner and Matt St. Amour hit his second from behind the arc, capping an 18-2 run for a 54-42 edge with 13 minutes remaining.
The Panther lead hovered around 10 points the rest of the way, with the biggest advantage coming at 64-50, following a put back of an offensive rebound by McCord. The Rams tightened things up in the closing minutes with an 8-0 run, closing the score to 75-71 with 2:30 remaining. A bucket in the paint by Daly with 1:15 left and seven free throws in the final minute secured an 84-75 victory for the hosts.
Daly's seventh double-double of the season yielded 18 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six assists, while shooting 9-13 from the field. Majors scored a career-best 18 points for the fourth time in his career, pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds, while going 7-14 from the floor. St. Amour's 18 points didn't come easy, but he aided his scoring with six assists, five steals and four rebounds. McCord scored 10 with six boards, while Folger went 4-7, netting nine points.
George Riefenstahl tied for a game high with 18 points to pace Farmingdale State, pulling down a game-best 15 rebounds. Matthew Graham added 16 points, while Irvine and Mableton each scored 10. Irvine added eight boards, while Riefenstahl blocked four shots.
Middlebury finished the game shooting 40.8 percent (31-76) from the floor, while the Rams connected on 42.9 percent (27-63). The Panthers held a 44-42 edge on the boards, after being outrebounded 25-16 in the first half.