Men’s Basketball Stays Perfect

By Andrew Rigas

The Middlebury men’s basketball team was able to stay unbeaten on the season, defeating Rensselaer 87-78 in its home opener on Sunday Nov. 30 to advance to 5-0 on the season.

After a week of rest, the Panthers were ready from the get-go as Matt St. Amour ’17 opened the scoring with a three-pointer just 14 seconds into the game. The game went back and forth for the opening 10 minutes, and the Engineers held a 15-14 lead with 10:30 left in the half. However, the Panthers did not stay behind for long, stringing together a 16-5 run over the next seven minutes to take a 31-19 lead.

They held onto the double-digit lead for the remainder, leading 39-29 at the halfway point behind a balanced effort that saw nine Panthers score. Starting guards Jake Brown  ’17 and St. Amour led the way in the first half with eight and seven points respectively while Dylan Sinnickson  ’15 and Connor Huff  ’16 both chipped in five.

Middlebury opened the second half with another bang when Hunter Merryman  ’15 splashed a three at the 19:49 mark to give the Panthers a 42-29 lead. However, it was not that easy for the Panthers though, as the Engineers fought back with a 16-4 run of its own to make it a one point game at 46-45 with more than 14 minutes left. Neither team could gain any decisive momentum over the next five minutes and the score remained within one possession until the nine-minute mark.

That fateful stretch began when Sinnickson drained a step-back three and finished a layup off  Brown’s steal from Rensselaer’s Jonathan Luster, and St. Amour swiped the ball and recorded two points of his own to make it a 10 point game, 64-54. The Panthers put the game out of reach over the next five minutes, extending their lead to 17, 80-63, with just three minutes remaining.

The last three minutes were merely a formality as the Engineers managed to make the game a single-digit game, 87-78, when the final buzzer sounded.

However, the final score doesn’t really mirror the overall complexion of the matchup. The Panthers took much better care of the basketball, holding an 8-18 edge in the turnover battle. They were able to force turnovers and then capitalize on Rensselaer’s miscues by scoring 27 points off turnovers.

Brown attributes his team’s ability to create chaos defensively to a number of factors; “I think we’ve found certain lineups that allow us to pressure defensively while turning it into an up-tempo offense,” Brown said. “As the season goes on, I think guys are becoming more confident in their individual defense and team defense.”

While Rensselaer shot better from the field, 55.8% to only 49.3% for Middlebury, the Panthers made four more shots due to the fact that they attempted 15 more than Rensselaer.

Sinnickson once again cued his team offensively by tallying 18 points, while Brown added 14 points, five assists and six steals. Middlebury also got much more help from its bench, which scored 29 points to Rensselaer’s 12. First-year Jack Daly ’18 contributed 20 solid minutes off the bench, scoring three points and assisting three baskets, while fellow first-year Nick Tarantino ’18 added eight points and eight rebounds.

The Panthers traveled to Rutland to do battle with St. Joseph on Tuesday, Dec. 2, hoping to repeat their success against the Fighting Saints, whom they have defeated for the last five years—including a resounding 115-74 victory last year.