Men’s Basketball Falls to Nichols in NCAA Tournament

By CLAIRE MESSERSMITH

MICHAEL BORENSTEIN
Griffin Kornaker ’21 finishes a layup in a game against Tufts.

Top-seeded in the NESCAC, the Middlebury men’s basketball team suffered an unexpected loss in the NESCAC quarterfinal round on Saturday, February 16. The next two rounds took place the following weekend and on Monday, February 25, the Panthers heard the news of their bid to the NCAA tournament. 

Middlebury, coming into the first-round NCAA Tournament game with a record of 18-7, were on the road to play Nichols (26-2) on March 1 at Rowan University. 

The game was back and forth for the duration of the opening round contest. With a minute remaining in the second half, Middlebury was up 72-71 after a pair of free throws from Griffin Kornaker ’21. But after both Nichols and Middlebury missed shots after each of their chances at possession, Nichols netted two free throws for a 74-71 lead with 22 seconds remaining. 

Middlebury called a timeout. The ball was turned over to Nichols’ possession, and the Bisons played strong keep away while the clock ran out. Edged by Nichols, the 14th seed, the Panthers fell to the Bisons by three points, with a final score of 74-71.

Matt Folger ’20 led the team in points and in rebounds—achieving a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Eric McCord ’19 netted 10 points and had 10 boards alongside a game-high of three blocked shots. His co-captain, Hilal Dahleh ’19, had eight points, five rebounds and three assists. 

The Middlebury men’s basketball team finishes 18-8, yet came out of the regular season first in the NESCAC and with two good fights in two post-season contests. Middlebury topped Nichols in rebounds 49-36 and also had 32 bench points while Nichols put up 1. 

The season comes to a close with the team’s 10th trip to the NCAA tournament in the last 12 years and a history of a 15-9 record in tournament action. Middlebury led the NESCAC and ranked fourth in Division III for blocked shots per game and fifth nationally in rebounds per game—44.92. Head Coach Jeff Brown has completed his 22nd year as head coach of the Panthers, having eclipsed the 400 career win mark as a head coach in January. Friday’s game between Nichols and Middlebury marked the fifth time in program history that the two teams have met since the very first matchup in 1979. 

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