Panther Men Drop a Pair of NESCAC Games

By Andrew Rigas

After defeating Plattsburgh State 63-53 on Jan. 6, the Middlebury men’s basketball team suffered its first two defeats of the season to Bates and Tufts and fell to 0-2 in the NESCAC this week on its three-game road trip.

The Panthers extended their unbeaten streak when they traveled to Plattsburgh and toppled the Cardinals in a relatively low-scoring affair. After no scoring for the first three minutes of the contest, Middlebury drew first blood and built a 10-4 lead seven minutes into the opening half. Much of the first half followed the general pattern of more defense than offense — neither team shot better than 31 percent from the field — and Middlebury took a 28-22 lead into the break.

The Cardinals began the second half on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 28. With a one-point lead at the 15:23 mark, the Panthers exploded on a 9-0 run behind four points from Dylan Sinnickson ’15 and a three from Nick Tarantino ’18.

The margin ballooned to 49-36 in favor of the Panthers as they held the Cardinals without a made basket for almost five minutes. Plattsburgh State refused to cave, cutting the lead to six with just under eight minutes left, but they couldn’t get closer than that. Once again the Panther defense responded by allowing only five points over the final 7:42 to secure a 63-53 victory.

Sinnickson led the Panthers in scoring with 13 points, while also pulling down 13 rebounds. Brown stuffed the stat sheet, tallying 10 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. First-year Tarantino provided a welcome spark off the bench with 11 points, including nine from beyond the arc.

The team then traveled to Lewiston, ME to do battle with Bates in its first NESCAC game. The game began as a see-saw affair — foreshadowing what would turn out to be a very tightly-contested contest — only to see Middlebury gain a 19-11 lead with 7:36 left in the first half. The Panthers couldn’t muster much else offensively in the half, and even fell behind 24-23 on the heels of a 7-0 Bobcat run to end the half.

The beginning of the second half was reminiscent of that of the first half with the teams exchanging blows, including a Sinnickson three that would give the Panthers a 33-32 lead, its last of the game. Bates went on a 10-0 run to take a nine point lead as it held the Panthers scoreless for more than four minutes, but the game was far from over. Middlebury hung around and even made it a one possession game, 48-46, with 5:20 to go.

The Panthers just couldn’t do what they had to offensively to win the game, and the Bobcats took good enough care of the ball and made their free throws to put the finishing touches on a 57-53 win.

In defeat, Sinnickson was the only scorer in double digits for the Panthers, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his eighth double-double in eleven games.

On the final leg of this three-game road trip, the Panthers hoped to get in the win column in NESCAC play against Tufts. The fact that Middlebury’s largest lead was 2-0 at the 18:35 mark summarizes the game for the Panthers. Following a 13-5 run, they trailed 18-11, and were playing from behind for the remainder of the contest.

At the halfway point, Middlebury trailed 38-26, with its only comfort being there are two halves in a basketball game. The tables turned at the beginning of the second half as the Panthers came out firing on all cylinders to knot the game at 47, scoring 21 points before the 13:50 point in the second half. The Jumbos answered right back with a 7-0 run and never looked back, extending its lead to 19 with a little of over five minutes left.

The final score read 80-63 in favor of the Jumbos who shot a blistering 61% in the second half, and got an amazing contribution of 41 points from its bench (compared to only nine from the Middlebury bench). Despite the loss, Sinnickson turned in another outstanding effort, scoring a very efficient 26 points on 10-16 shooting.

The Panthers hope to get back on track after its disappointing opening weekend in the NESCAC against Castleton in another nonconference game on Tuesday, before returning home for NESCAC games this weekend against Wesleyan on Friday and Connecticut College on Sunday.