Hartford, Conn. – Junior guard Matt St. Amour (Swanton, Vt.) had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the visiting Middlebury College Panthers to a 70-58 victory over the Trinity College Bantams in the semifinal round of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Basketball Championship Tournament on Ogrodnik Court in Oosting Gymnasium this afternoon. Trinity, ranked No. 22 in the nation and seeded No. 1 in the tourney for the second season in a row, falls to 19-7 with its first loss in six games. The Panthers improve to 16-10 and will play No. 2-seeded Amherst, which downed Tufts, 86-83, in the other semifinal at Trinity today, in the NESCAC Finals tomorrow at noon at Trinity. The Bantams hope to earn at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament when they are announced on Monday.
Middlebury took leads of 6-0 and 14-3 early, as senior center Matt Daley (Fairfield, Conn.) scored the game's first four points to get things started. Trinity scored eight points in a row to pull within three at 14-11 with 11:20 on the clock after a three-pointer by senior guard Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.), and tied the score at 20-20 with 7:11 left in the first half on a layup by freshman Jeremy Arthur (Westbury, N.Y.). Arthur drilled a trey moments later for a 23-20 lead, but Middlebury answered with a 12-0 run that included eight points by St. Amour and a layup by rookie forward Zach Baines (Stamford, Conn.) in the closing seconds of the first half gave the visitors a 34-25 lead at the break.
Middlebury opened the second half the same as the first with a 6-0 run to go ahead, 40-25, 3:29 after intermission. The Panthers maintained their double-digit advantage for more than 10 minutes, before Hurd nailed a trey from at the 8:11 mark to make the score, 49-41. Trinity cut the lead to as low as six points at 61-55 on a free throw by junior forward Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) with 2:43 on the clock, but the Panthers sank nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:10 to preserve the victory.
The teams finished with vastly different shooting percentages, as Middlebury shot 46.7 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from long range, and 80.6 percent on 31 free throw attempts, while the Bantams finished with a 32.8 field-goal shooting percentage, a 22.2 three-point shooting percentage, and a 50 percent free-throw shooting percentage on 16 attempts. Four Panthers finished in double digits in scoring, as Daley finished with 18 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, junior guard Jake Brown (Hawley, Pa.) had 11 points, four rebounds, and a game-high eight assists, and sophomore forward Adisa Majors (New York, N.Y.) added 11 points and six boards. Senior forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) was the lone Bantam in double figures in scoring with 11 points, including nine in the second half, to go with four rebounds, four steals, and two blocks. Ogundeko contributed seven points, a team-high nine rebounds, and four blocked shots, and Arthur added nine points and five rebounds off the bench for the Bantams.