Men’s Hoops Earns Two Conference Wins

In a complete reversal of last week’s disappointment, Jake Brown ’17 and the men’s basketball team got back into the NESCAC hunt with wins over Wesleyan and Connecticut College. (The Campus/Michael O'Hara)

In a complete reversal of last week’s disappointment, Jake Brown ’17 and the men’s basketball team got back into the NESCAC hunt with wins over Wesleyan and Connecticut College. (The Campus/Michael O'Hara)

By Andrew Rigas

Middlebury (13-2, 2-2) has now rattled off four straight wins, including two in-conference over Wesleyan and Conn. College.

For much of the first half on the road at Castleton St. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, neither team could distinguish itself from the other as the Panthers jumped out to an early lead before the Spartans responded with a 7-0 run to take a 14-12 lead.

Middlebury slowly began to extend its lead behind a balanced scoring effort. By the end of the first half, Middlebury had established a 46-38 lead. Connor Huff ’16 tallied 11 points while grabbing five offensive rebounds, and Matt St. Amour ’17 added 10 points while assisting on five baskets.

The Panthers announced themselves as the better team on that night with a 13-0 run over a span of two minutes early in the second half capped by a dunk and three-pointer from Dylan Sinnickson ’15 to give them a 61-41 lead. When time expired, the Panthers secured a 94-56 victory, outscoring the Spartans 48-18 in the second half.

The Spartans only recorded three made baskets in the second half, shooting a dreadful 10.7 percent from the field. Middlebury scored 26 second chance points, and assisted on 26 of its 32 baskets.

“We are best when we are in transition and that has been the main focus of our team,” St. Amour said.

Huff scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Panthers, while Sinnickson scored 17 points and just missed out on another double-double with nine rebounds.

In the first nine minutes against Wesleyan on Friday, Jan. 16, there was no indication the Panthers would run away with the contest as they trailed 14-13 at the 11:22 mark. Beginning with a transition dunk by Matt Daley ’16, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to take a 10-point lead and force Wesleyan to take a timeout. The Panthers closed out the half with a decisive 27-10 run, including a 35-footer at the buzzer for St. Amour, giving them a 51-24 lead heading into the break.

With Middlebury on pace for more than one hundred points at the halfway point, guards St. Amour (12 points) and Jake Brown ’17 (11 assists) keyed the Panther offense, while the team’s defense forced more turnovers (10) than the field goals it allowed (eight).

A 25-10 Middlebury run to begin the second half squashed Wesleyan’s hopes of a comeback and gave the Panthers a 76-34 lead. Middlebury went on to secure their second lopsided victory of the week, 97-60.

St. Amour led the team in scoring with 20, Sinnickson added 19 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double and Jake Brown tallied 14 assists for a new career high.

Middlebury returned to the court on Sunday to play 7-7 Conn. College. From the opening tip, it was clear that the Panthers were not going to score more than 90 points for the third straight game. The team opened the game making only one shot of its first nine and quickly fell behind 9-2, culminating in a team timeout by Coach Brown. His team responded with a 7-0 run sparked by a Hunter Merryman ’15 three to tie the game. The game see-sawed to a 22-21 Conn. College lead, before Merryman was fouled shooting another three and sank three free throws to give his team a two point lead and ignite another 9-0 Panther run. At the end of the first half, the Panthers held a 32-25 lead.

Leading by six with 7:45 left on the clock, the Panthers went on another one of their patented 9-0 runs to take a 15-point lead, but the Camels battled back.

Conn. College’s Sean McNally converted an old-fashioned three point play off a Jake Brown turnover to pull his team within four, 58-54, with 33 seconds left. The Camels were forced to foul to extend the game, but the Panthers answered the call, making five out of six from the stripe to seal a 63-59 win for the Panthers.

The team’s solid defensive effort won the game as it held the Camels to 32.4 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers, turning those miscues into 12 points on the other end.

“Coach Brown gave us the challenge of being the best FG defense in the country,” St. Amour said, “coming into the weekend we were number 2. Our defense allows us to win games even when we don’t shoot well, which is definitely a key for us. ”

Merryman recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Bryan Jones ’17 tallied 11 off the bench on 4-5 shooting.

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, Middlebury blew out Johnson St., 102-54, behind Sinnicksons 21 points and eight boards and Jake Brown’s 16 points and seven rebounds. In all, 13 players contributed points to the offensive explosion.

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Men’s Hoops Earns Two Conference Wins