Men’s Hoops: Middlebury Tops Eastern Connecticut State to Win NCAA Regional

Courtesy Middlebury Sports Information

WILLIMANTIC, CT. — A balanced scoring attack and a decided edge in rebounding lifted Middlebury to the Sweet 16 of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament with an 83-58 triumph over host Eastern Connecticut State in Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium. The 18th-ranked Panthers (21-6) move into the third round of the tournament for the second-straight season, facing MIT at a site to be determined on Sunday. The other match-up in the sectional will be Ramapo taking on Franklin & Marshall. The 10th-ranked Warriors finish their season at 26-4.

The Panthers raced out to a 12-3 lead, capped on a layup from Jack Daly with 16:14 left. After a dunk by Eastern Connecticut State’s Tarchee Brown on the next possession cut the Middlebury lead to seven, the Panthers produced a 12-2 run spanning nearly three minutes for a 24-7 advantage.

The Warriors chipped away at the deficit, moving to within 10 (25-15) on a pair of free throws by Brown with 9:52 remaining. The visitors scored the next five points on a layup from Eric McCord and three-point field goal by Hilal Dahleh for a 15-point lead, as the Panthers maintained between a 12 and 15-point lead over the next seven minutes. A three from Jack Farrell in the final seconds of the stanza increased Middlebury’s lead to 46-28 at the halftime break.

Out of the locker room, Eastern Connecticut State moved to within 17 at 47-30 with 18:12 left on a pair of charity tosses from Cory Muckle. A layup from Nick Tarantino and two free throws by Dahleh quickly pushed the Panther advantage back to 21. The lead hovered around the 20-point over the next few minutes, as Middlebury grabbed its largest advantage of the contest at 25 (73-48) on a free throw by Matt Folger with 7:04 left.

Eastern Connecticut State clawed back to within 18 (73-55) with 4:55 remaining on a free throw from Muckle. The Panthers responded with 10 of the next 13 points, possessing an 83-58 lead with 1:29 left on two free throws from Farrell, easing to the win.

Farrell led four Panthers in double figures with 19 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Dahleh contributed 16 points, while McCord recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards in 20 minutes off the bench. Daly had a strong all-around night, finishing with 11 points to go along with game-high marks of 12 rebounds and seven assists. Tarantino ended his contest with six points and eight rebounds.

Muckle topped Eastern Connecticut State with 13 points, while Brown and Jake Collagan each netted 12. Carlos Gonzalez also scored in double figures with 10 points and had a game-best four steals.

Middlebury shot 52.5 percent (31-59) from the floor, while the Warriors made just 30.3 percent (20-66) of their attempts. The Panthers held a 54-26 advantage on the glass, including a 29-7 tally in the first half and had a 46-28 edge in points in the paint. The Panthers also handed out 21 assists on 31 made baskets.