Men’s Basketball Wins Middlebury Tournament

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Middlebury Men's Basketball

Middlebury Men's Basketball

Middlebury Athletic Communications

Middlebury Athletic Communications

Middlebury Men's Basketball

By ANDREW RIGAS

The eighth-ranked men’s basketball team swept its first four games of the season for the first time in four years, highlighted by winning its own tournament the weekend before Thanksgiving before winning two games on the road over break.

In the first tournament ever hosted by the men’s basketball team, the Panthers swamped Fitchburg St. 111–72 on Friday, Nov. 17, and dismissed Wentworth 74­–58 on Saturday, Nov. 18, to win the tournament. Then, Middlebury went on the road to beat Johnson St. 84–77 on Tuesday, Nov. 21, and Endicott 78–67 on Sunday, Nov. 26.

Jack Daly ’18 led the way for the Panthers in all four wins, averaging 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game so far this season and recording what is believed to be the first triple-double in program history in the season-opener against Fitchburg St.

Middlebury came out firing in their season-opener at home in Pepin Gymnasium on Friday, Nov. 17.

Midway through the first half, the Panthers already held a 36–16 lead over Fitchburg St. And at the end of the first half, Middlebury led 62–27. The team shot 60 percent from the field, including eight of 12 from beyond the arc, and made 18 of 24 free throws, while the Falcons shot only 24 percent from the field.

The second half was much closer as Fitchburg St. shot the ball much better in the second half, but Middlebury was up by enough of a margin that it didn’t matter, as they won very comfortably by the final score of 111–72.

Along with Daly’s triple-double of 10 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, Matt Folger ’20 led the Panthers in scoring with 17 on six of nine shooting and Eric McCord ’19 added 15 off the bench on a perfect seven of seven from the field. All in all, it was a balanced effort for the Panthers, as five players scored in double digits and every player on the roster played and scored.

As a team, the Panthers shot 56 percent from the field and knocked down 12 of their 23 three point attempts. They also assisted on 27 of their 36 baskets.

“Our motto on offense is ‘one more’ and that means we make the extra pass to get a great shot instead of a good shot,” said Daly of the Panthers’ offensive success on Friday. “Our success on offense stems from our passing and everyone’s selflessness. No one cares who gets the credit as long as we put the ball in the hoop. We are playing our up-tempo style to get easy points and look to tire the opponents out. It’s a lot of fun playing on a team that averages 20 assists per game and people take pride in sharing the ball.”

In the championship game of the Middlebury Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 18, Middlebury’s offense cooled from its white-hot pace on Friday, but the Panthers still handled Wentworth 74–58 to win the tournament.

Ahead by only one point with 6:19 remaining in the first half, the Panthers rattled off an 11–2 run over the next three minutes to take a 10-point lead, which was where they stood at halftime leading 38–28.

Wentworth cut the lead to seven points twice in the second half but could never get it lower than that, and the Panthers rode to the 74–58 win. Daly helped seal the Middlebury victory with 20 second-half points on seven of eight shooting, on his way to a career-high 25 points. For his efforts, Daly was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Folger joined Daly on the all-tournament team, adding 15 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks on Saturday. Adisa Majors ’18 also chipped in 14 points on seven of nine from the field and seven rebounds in the win.

After shooting over 50 percent from three-point range against Fitchburg St., the Panthers made only 29 percent of their three-point attempts against the Leopards. Still, the Panthers shot 50 percent from the field and held Wentworth under 60 points and to 36 percent shooting.

“When the shots aren’t falling, we just have to make sure our defense is executing,” Daly said. “We gave up under 60 points against Wentworth, so I’m confident that if we can do that then we will win the game. Coach has been preaching that we must bring intensity, energy and passion to the defensive side.

“We can’t expect perfection this early in the season, but it’s been a great start to the season going 4–0.”

After two days off, Middlebury went on the road for its first away game of the season at Johnson St. on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The Badgers went ahead 16–14 7:19 into the first half, but the Panthers went on a 15–0 run over the next six minutes to take a thirteen-point lead. Middlebury’s lead grew to as great as 17 points, and the Panthers went into the locker with a 44–27 lead.

The Panthers extended their lead to 21 in the first four minutes of the second half, but then the Badgers started to slowly chip away, cutting Middlebury’s lead to as little as eight with just over seven minutes left in the contest. Middlebury responded with a 6–0 spurt, and the lead never fell below 10 until the Badgers hit a shot in garbage time that made the final score 84–77 in Middlebury’s favor.

The pair of Daly and Folger led the Panthers once more. Daly tallied 24 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and eight assists, while Folger added 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

Marqwon Wynn kept the Badgers in the contest by scoring a game-high 29 points, including 17 in the second half.

Middlebury aimed to start 4–0 for the first time in four seasons when it took to the court at Endicott on Sunday, Nov. 26. Last season, the Panthers hosted Endicott on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a 3­–0 record too, but fell to the Gulls 93–89. The Panthers got their revenge in the NCAA Tournament Sectional Semifinal, when they routed the Gulls 89–60. Adding to the intrigue, Endicott entered the contest 2–0 after upsetting No. 7 Babson on its home-court two days prior to its matchup with the Panthers.

This time around, Middlebury would not be denied a 4–0 start, fueled by an 11–0 run to end the first half to take a 38–23 lead into the break. The Panthers extended their lead to 20 in the first five minutes of the second half, but once again, Endicott chipped away at their lead until it was just six with over six minutes to go. Middlebury responded with five quick points, and the game never got any closer, ending in a 78–67 road victory for the Panthers.

“The two games against Johnson St. and Endicott were road games and for the new guys that’s a tough environment to play in,” Daly said. “It’s a learning process at this point in the season and I thought they all did a tremendous job in handling themselves and keeping their composure. We expect teams to make runs on their home court, so it’s important how we handle those runs and in both games we did a great job of answering. A road win is never easy, so to be 2–0 on the road so far is great.”

Daly led the Panthers in scoring with a game-high 19 points and almost had his second triple-double of the season, coming up one rebound and one assist short. Fellow captain Nick Tarantino ’18 tallied a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Hilal Dahleh ’19 added a career-high 18 points on six of seven shooting, including 4 of five from three-point range.

Endicott’s Keith Brown entered the contest leading the NCAA in scoring with 41.5 ppg, including 45 in the Gulls’ upset victory over Babson, but scored only 15 on 5–13 shooting against Middlebury.

“Coach devised a great defensive plan and we executed it perfectly,” Daly said. “He had five turnovers, and we limited his touches. The coaching staff put us in a great position to slow him down. The rotations were great which was a crucial part in slowing him down.”

Middlebury will return to the court on Tuesday, Dec. 5, when it hosts Plattsburgh St. (0–2) in its final home game before final exams. The two teams last met two seasons ago, when the Panthers defeated the Cardinals 71–49.

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Men’s Basketball Wins Middlebury Tournament