Men’s hoop moves up in standings

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team won twice this past weekend, including a key NESCAC victory that allowed the Panthers (14-3 overall) to take over first place in the league at 4-1.
The Panthers are off until Sunday, when they visit Trinity (13-4, 2-2). Middlebury moved up to No. 10 in this week’s NCAA Division III poll.
On Saturday the Panthers defeated then No. 11 Williams, 70-66, by withstanding a late Eph rally. Williams (13-4, 3-2 NESCAC) took a 21-13 first-half lead, but the Panthers closed the half on an 18-7 run capped by a buzzer-beating Matt Folger three-pointer to lead at the break, 31-28.
The Panthers stretched the lead to 46-40, thanks in part to six points from Hilal Dahleh, and then took the game over at both ends of the court in a 20-9 run over the next several minutes to lead by 66-49 with 7:10 to go. Jack Daly inside and out and Eric McCord in the paint scored six points apiece and the Panthers forced several turnovers during the surge.
Williams fought back with 17-2 run to move within 68-66 on a jumper in the paint from Bobby Casey with 24 seconds left. Casey (15 points) hit two threes in the surge; James Heskett, who finished with 19 points, contributed points in the paint; the Panthers missed the front end of two one-and-one-free throw chances; and Williams forced turnovers.
But after Casey’s jumper Daly took the ball out of bounds and fired a pass three-quarters of the length of the court to McCord, who had worked his way behind the Eph press, for the game’s final and clinching points.
Joey Leighton and Dahleh led the Panthers with 16 points apiece, a career-best point total for Leighton. McCord tacked on eight points and five rebounds, while Daly and Folger each scored seven. Folger added eight boards and four blocked shots, including stuffing a dunk attempt late in the opening half. Daly finished with 11 assists and four steals to go along with seven rebounds, while Nick Tarantino added seven boards and five points.
The Panthers had advantages in bench points (32-16), points in the paint (40-24), and second-chance points (14-5).
On Sunday the Panthers coasted to an 87-62 win at Pine Manor (7-9). An 11-0 first-half run helped them to a 44-31 lead at the break, and they settled matters with a 14-2 run to open the second half in which they made their first five shots.
Jack Daly led Middlebury with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Matt Folger finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Jack Farrell scored 11. Tarantino finished with seven points and seven rebounds as the Panthers went deep into their bench and also outrebounded the Gators, 47-29. Jon Higgenbotham scored 13 to lead Pine Manor.

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