Men’s Hoop: Panthers Advance in NCAA Tournament

Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information

Stockton, NJ. — Middlebury moved on to the second round in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with a thrilling 75-73 win over #24 Salisbury. Matt St. Amour scored a game-high 27 points, becoming the 20th player in program history to surpass the 1,000-career point plateau with 1,006. The contest was the first-ever meeting between the two programs, as Middlebury improves to 18-10 with the victory. The Panthers advance to play Keene State, a 72-71 winner in overtime over Stockton in the night’s second game. Salisbury ends its season at 21-7.

Middlebury raced out to a quick six-point lead (8-2) over the first 3:06 of play, including four points from Matt Daley. A jumper from Salisbury’s Justin Witmer at 16:01 pulled the Sea Gulls to within four, but the Panthers rattled off an 8-0 spurt over a stretch of 2:17 with four points from both Adisa Majors and St. Amour for a 16-4 edge at the 13:44 mark.

Salisbury slowly clawed its way back and pulled within five (24-19) with 7:32 remaining on a pair of free throws by Gordon Jeter. Middlebury responded with a layup and jumper from Zach Baines as part of a 4-1 run, pushing its advantage back to eight at 28-20 with 4:50 showing. The teams exchanged made baskets and free throws until a charity toss by Middlebury’s Jake Brown with 1:07 left gave the Panthers an 11-point edge (36-25) headed into halftime.

In the second half, Middlebury saw its lead grow to 13 at 43-30 on a conventional three-point play by Baines with 16:44 left. Salisbury reeled off an 11-0 run over a span of 3:06 capped off by a three-point play from Chad Barcikowski, cutting the deficit to just two (43-41). The Panthers answered with an 8-2 spurt over a span of 2:41 behind a Baines’ layup along with a three-pointer from St. Amour as well as three free throws from St. Amour after getting fouled attempting a long-distance shot.

St. Amour tallied his 21st point of the game and 1,000th career point on a free throw with 8:01 remaining in the second half, putting Middlebury ahead by eight (58-50). With the Panthers ahead by seven (62-55) with 6:24 left, the Sea Gulls tallied six-consecutive points on a three-pointer by Rocky Harris, a free throw from Adrien Straughn and a jumper for Gordon Jeter to come within one at 62-61 with 4:54 on the clock. Middlebury scored nine of the next 11 points including seven from Daley for a 71-63 lead with 2:26 remaining.

Ahead by three (71-68) with 46 seconds left, Daley put Middlebury in front by five with an uncontested layup on a nifty feed from St. Amour. On Salisbury’s next possession, Witmer was fouled and hit both charity tosses. Following a Panther turnover, the Sea Gulls worked the ball around and got a layup for Jeter with nine ticks left. St. Amour calmly knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end as Salisbury was forced to foul, giving Middlebury a 75-72 edge with five seconds left.

As the Sea Gulls inbounded, the Panthers fouled Straughn near center court before he could attempt a game-tying shot. He hit the first free throw, missing the second one on purpose as the scramble for the rebound went out of bounds to Salisbury. The Sea Gulls were unable to get a game-tying shot attempt off in the final .2 seconds as the Panthers came away with the thrilling win.

St. Amour tallied his 27 points on 7-13 shooting with two threes and a perfect 11-11 at the free throw line. Baines had 14 points off the bench along with five rebounds, while Daley had 13 points, nine in the second half, on 4-5 shooting and 5-6 at the line. He pulled down six rebounds and paced the Panthers with three steals. Jack Daly recorded a game-high 11 rebounds along with four points.

Jeter and Witmer led Salisbury with 18 points apiece, while Harris chipped in with 15 points. Witmer and Harris were each 4-6 from beyond the arc for the Sea Gulls. Jeter produced a game-high four steals, while Justin May had a team-high five rebounds and added four points.

The Panthers shot 49.1 percent from the floor (26-53), while Salisbury knocked down 43.9% of its attempts (25-57). Middlebury made 21-26 attempts at the free throw line for 80.8%, while the Sea Gulls hit 14-20 for 70%. Middlebury outscored Salisbury 42-26 with points in the paint and held a 37-26 rebounding advantage.