MEDFORD, MA—The Middlebury College Panthers (21-3) repeated as NESCAC champions with an 84-62 victory over the sixth-seeded Williams College Ephs (19-8). Middlebury thus locks up an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament and also avenged their 89-65 loss at the hands of the Ephs during the regular season.
A closely contested first half gave way to a second half dominated by Middlebury, who opened the period with 16 unanswered points and in total outscored Williams 48-22 after intermission.
The title tilt started out all Williams; the Ephs hit three of their first four three-point attempts and took a 15-5 lead in the first five minutes. Middlebury, however, wouldn't be conquered so easily, and Jake Brown sunk back-to-back transition threes to quickly cut the Eph lead down to four. Three minutes later, the Panthers had knotted the game at 20 points apiece
Almost immediately after the Panthers tied the game, Kyle Scadlock took control, converting a three-point play followed by a sweet drive and layup to give Williams a six-point margin. Scadlock was everywhere on the court in the first half: he completed a double-double with fewer than fourteen minutes having run off the clock.
A trey by Dan Aronowitz extended the Eph lead to 32-23 with around eight minutes to play in the half. The Ephs however, then went cold from the floor, failing to hit a field goal for nearly the next six minutes while Middlebury inched their way back into the game, eventually tying it at 35 with 2:40 to play.
James Heskett reasserted an Eph lead with a trey from the left side, and the teams traded misses for the next several possessions until Kyle Scadlock stole the ball at mid-court to finish with a fast break slam. Dan Aronowitz missed his last-second three-point attempt, and the score was 40-36 as the teams went into the locker room for the half.
All of the Ephs' success in the first half, however, was for naught. Williams failed to score for the first six minutes of the second half, while Middlebury seriously heated up. The Panthers opened the half with 16 straight points, taking a 52-40 lead before Williams got on the board with a Dan Aronowitz free throw.
Matt St. Amour, the NESCAC's leading scorer who only had three points in the first half, found his stroke and contributed eight straight points including two treys to take the Panther lead from four to an intimidating twelve. A nice post play by Matthew Karpowicz cut the Middlebury lead to eleven with twelve and a half minutes to play, but back-to-back threes by St. Amour and Matt Folger made it a 17-point game.
Foul trouble for Middlebury seemed to offer some hope for the Ephs, who entered the bonus after just six minutes; Kyle Scadlock cut the deficit back to twelve with two pairs of foul shots. Middlebury, however, did not suffer the offensive collapse necessary to enable a Williams comeback, and the Ephs, clearly feeling the whiplash of the game's radical shift of momentum, never got their offense running smoothly in the half.
The Ephs made just 5 of their 25 shots in the second half and 2 of 14 three-point attempts (14.3%). Additionally, Middlebury outrebounded Williams 28-13 in the second half. Both teams sent in their reserves in the final minutes as the Panthers continued to extend their lead, and the score sat at 84-62 when the final buzzer sounded.
Williams head coach Kevin App characterized his team's performance as one of fatigue. "We're a Friday-Sunday team, and we played so, so hard to beat Tufts yesterday that we looked just mentally fatigued in the second half. Middlebury is a veteran team; they came out and made some shots, and we dug ourselves into a hole."
Kyle Scadlock led all scorers, a distinction he has held in the last two Eph NESCAC Tournament games, with 24 points, and he added one rebound to his first half total of 10 to finish as the game leader in that category as well, with 11. In addition to shooting 8-11 from the floor, Scadlock was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Daniel Aronowitz contributed 14 points, and James Heskett added eight.
"Kyle just works incredibly hard," Coach App commented after the game. "He's his own harshest critic, and when he's playing with confidence and aggression, he can be a really impressive basketball player."
Matt St. Amour and Jake Brown each scored 20 points for the Panthers; St. Amour racked up 17 of those in the second half, including four three-pointers. Eric McCord and Adisa Majors also were in double digits, while Matt Folger led the Panthers with 8 rebounds.
On the game, Williams shot 35.1% from the field and 25.8% from long-distance, numbers which bear the marks of the Ephs' offensive struggles in the second half. Middlebury hit 47.8% of their shots, including 38.5% of their three-point attempts.
Middlebury is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament with the NESCAC title, while Williams will be watching the NCAA III Men's Hoops Selection Show tomorrow at 12:30 PM Eastern to see if they have earned an At-Large bid to the national tournament. The Selection Show can be viewed at http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule/2017/02/27.