Middlebury put together a 32-8 run over the final 10 minutes of the first half, pulling away from visiting Endicott for an 89-60 triumph in NCAA Tournament action on Friday in a sold-out Pepin Gymnasium. Sixth-ranked Middlebury advances into the NCAA Quarterfinals for the second time in the last five years and will play NESCAC opponent Williams, a 78-61 winner over Susquehanna in the night's opening game, in the sectional final on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The winner will advance final four next weekend. Tickets for the game are sold out.
Middlebury (27-3), which extended its winning streak to 14, netted the opening basket of the game 2:59 into the contest when Eric McCord swished a jumper from in the key. A quick steal by Matt St. Amour gave the Panthers the ball right back before Jack Daly drove the lane for a 4-0 lead. The Gulls (24-7) netted their initial bucket of the game on a layup by Daquan Sampson, but the hosts countered with a jumper from Jake Brown and a three pointer from Daly for a 9-2 edge just over five minutes into the contest. Middlebury's defense did its job early, limiting Endicott to only one field goal on its first 13 attempts.
The Panthers later pushed their advantage into double figures as Brown gave the hosts a 40-19 following three-straight free throws after being fouled on an attempt from long range. Those free throws finished off a modest 9-0 run. Middlebury went into the break with a 48-24 lead when Bryan Jones sank a jumper from the side of the lane.
In the second stanza, the Panthers continued to pull away, starting the fresh 20 minutes with a 23-5 burst. Middlebury scored the first 10 points of the half with St. Amour keying the run on a pair of three pointers. The hosts took their biggest lead of the game (71-29) with 11:43 on the clock when Daly sank a free throw.
The Gulls outscored Middlebury 31-18 the final 11-plus minutes, but the deficit was too big to overcome as the Panthers moved into the next round with an 89-60 victory.
Endicott was the lone visiting team to win in Pepin Gymnasium in the last two seasons, collecting a 93-89 victory back in November.
St. Amour led all players with 21 points, including five three-pointers, while Brown had a big game with 19 points (7-12 shooting) and a game-best eight assists. Nick Tarantino recorded a double-double off of the bench, finishing with 11 points and 11 boards, while Daly chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds. He also finished with four assists, breaking the program's single-season record with 180. Matt Folger scored eight points to go along with a career-high nine rebounds and five blocks in the victory. McCord helped the Panthers boast a 56-39 advantage on the glass with 10 rebounds. Middlebury hit 13 three pointers in the game, establishing a new single-season team record with 246.
Keith Brown topped Endicott with 12 points on 5-9 shooting, while Sampson scored 11 points and had six rebounds. Nick Thibeault led the Gulls with eight boards, while Kamahl Walker dished out five assists.
The hosts shot 43.8 percent (32-73) from the floor and 41.9 percent (13-31) from three-point range. The Panthers limited the Gulls to only 33.3 percent shooting (25-75) for the game and 22 percent (9-41) from long range. Middlebury's defense also held Endicott 31 points below its scoring average in the NCAA Tournament.