The Middlebury men's basketball team ran its winning streak to eight with an exciting 84-78 victory Tuesday at Keene State (14-6) in Spaulding Gym. The sixth-ranked Panthers (16-3) return to NESCAC action on Friday when they host Bowdoin beginning at 7:00 p.m.
The opening eight minutes of the first half saw both teams possess small leads. Clinging to a 17-15 advantage, Middlebury rattled off a 10-0 run over 2:44 of action for a 27-15 lead. Griffin Kornaker highlighted the spurt with a pair of three-point field goals. The Owls chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to five (32-27) on a layup by Miguel Prieto with 4:43 left.
The Panthers responded with the next eight points, gaining a 40-27 advantage on a layup by Jack Daly just over a minute later. Keene State closed the half with 11 of the last 15 points, including a free throw from Ty Nichols, as the visitors maintained a 44-38 halftime edge.
Out of the break, Middlebury's lead grew to as many as 11 (50-39) on a layup by Matt Folger with 17:26 remaining. Keene State slowly whittled away at the deficit, tying the game at 61-61 on a layup from Nichols at the 10:28 mark. The two teams exchanged quick 5-0 runs over the next few minutes, before six-consecutive points by the Panthers pushed the lead out to 72-66 on a pair of free throws from Daly with 6:24 left.
Keene State moved to within two points four times over the final minutes, with the last instance coming on a charity toss by James Anozie (80-78) at the 1:18 mark. Two free throws each from Eric McCord and Daly over the final minute sealed the 84-78 win.
Folger paced the Panthers with a career-high tying 22 points, including 8-12 from the floor, to go along with five assists and three blocked shots. Daly finished with 19 points, nine assists and four steals, while McCord and Adisa Majors each chipped in with 10 points. Nick Tarantino had a near double-double of eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Nichols led all players in scoring with 31 points for the Owls in addition to eight assists, seven steals and six rebounds. Anozie added 17 points and eight boards, while Dizel Wright had 13 points and Prieto added 12.
Middlebury finished with 24 assists on 30 baskets, including 15 helpers on 18 makes in the first half. The Panthers also held advantages in rebounding (41-28) and bench points (28-1) during the win.