Middlebury used a 12-2 run midway through the first half to open up a tight contest and held off a late comeback attempt by third-ranked Williams (15-2, 4-1) for an 80-66 victory on Saturday. The Panthers (14-5, 3-2) return to action on Sunday, January 27 when they host Trinity for NESCAC action beginning at 2:00 p.m.
Ahead by five (15-10) at the 11:44 mark of a back-and-forth opening half, the Panthers rattled off a 12-2 spurt spanning 3:51 for a 27-12 advantage on a layup from Max Bosco. The visitors maintained their double-digit lead over the remainder of the stanza, taking a 38-20 lead on a basket from Alex Sobel with 2:11 on the clock. The Ephs tallied the final three points of the half, as Middlebury took a 38-23 edge into the locker rooms.
Middlebury converted 45.2 percent of its attempts from the floor in the first half (14-31), while limiting the Ephs to just 25.9 percent (7-27) and 0-8 from three-point range.
Out of the break with the Panthers leading 47-31 nearly five minutes into action, Williams recorded 21 of the game's ensuing 31 points, moving to within 57-52 on a layup from James Heskett with 8:26 remaining. Middlebury quickly scored the next five points on a basket by Jack Farrell and a three from Hilal Dahleh to regain its double-digit lead. The Ephs got as close as 69-62 on a free throw from Michael Kempton at the 4:38 mark, but the Panthers tallied the next seven points and hit free throws down the stretch for the 80-66 victory.
Farrell paced the Panthers with 24 points and five assists, while Bosco added 18 points and six rebounds. Matt Folger added 17 points, including five threes, to go along with seven rebounds. Eric McCord pulled down a game-high 11 boards to go along with four points, while Sobel had a career-best six blocked shots to go along with four points and five boards.
Heskett led the hosts with 20 points, including 11-14 at the free-throw line, while Bobby Casey and Matt Karpowicz each had 18 points and six rebounds, respectively.