Fifth-ranked Middlebury closed out the regular season with an 80-68 conference setback at Amherst on Saturday. Jack Daly became the 23rd Panther in program history to reach 1,000 career points. Middlebury (19-5, 7-3) finished in a five-way tie for first place in the NESCAC standings, and will unfortunately earn the fifth seed with a road quarterfinal contest next Saturday. The official seedings and pairings will be announced by the league on Sunday.
The game was close through the early going, with the Panthers taking what turned out to be their only lead in the opening 20 minutes at 5-4, when Jack Farrell sank a three-point shot 1:18 into the contest. The hosts reclaimed the lead, but a bucket by Daly closed the margin to 16-14 with 13:42 showing on the clock. The Mammoths gained some breathing room, going on a 16-0 run for a 32-14 advantage.
The hosts took their biggest lead of the opening stanza at 39-19 with 3:27 remaining, but Middlebury made a nice burst to close out the half. The Panthers had a modest 9-4 run, capped by a three from Farrell in the final minute, cutting the Amherst advantage to 43-28 at the break.
In the second half, Middlebury got a bucket from Eric McCord in the opening minutes to climb to within 13 points (45-32), but that was as close as they'd get until the final stages. Amherst pushed the lead to 20 points on a pair of occasions, before the visitors made a late push. Farrell sank a pair of free throws with 1:10 remaining, cutting the margin to single digits at 75-66. After a free throw by Amherst's Grant Robinson, McCord trimmed the difference to eight, but the hosts converted four times from the charity stripe for the 80-68 victory.
Daly finished with six points, six assists and a team-best nine rebounds. Farrell tied a career high with 22 points on 7-13 shooting from the floor, while Nick Tarantino also reached double figures with 11. Matt Folger chipped in with seven points, six boards and three blocked shots.
The Mammoths had five players score in double digits, paced by Michael Riopel's 17. Fru Che and Joseph Schneider were next with 13 points each, while Johnny McCarthy had 11 points and 14 rebounds and Dylan Groff netted 10 points.
Amherst held the Panthers to 35.8 percent shooting from the floor (24-67), while connecting on 29-66 attempts (43.9 percent) of their attempts. The hosts also held a 60-34 advantage in rebounding.
After Saturday's contest, Daly has accumulated career totals of 1,002 points, 611 rebounds and 579 assists. He is believed to the first player in NESCAC men's basketball history to surpass the 1,000-point, 500-rebound and 500-assist mark.