Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Behind double-digit points from four different players the Tufts men's basketball team became the first eight seed in NESCAC Men's Basketball Tournament history to knock off the top seed, picking up an 85-76 win over Middlebury in Pepin Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon. Junior captain Eric Savage led the Jumbos in scoring and posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Tufts advances to take on second-seeded Hamilton on Saturday, February 23 in NESCAC Semifinal action. The win was the second over Middlebury this year for the Jumbos, as they also beat the Panthers during regular season play. Tufts improves to 12-13 this season, while Middlebury falls to 18-7 and will wait to see if it gains an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
For 39 minutes of the game no team led by more than five points. Down by one, 72-21, with 4:08 remaining in the game, Tufts first-year Tyler Aronson made two free throws to give the Jumbos a one-point advantage. On its next possession, Aronson added a layup to push Tufts' lead to three, 75-72, with 3:21 left. The Panthers came within one, thanks to a layup from Griffin Kornaker with 2:07 left. But Savage made a layup to put Tufts up 77-74.
On their next possession, Kornaker missed a 3-pointer for the Panthers, and the Jumbos pushed their lead to five with a layup from sophomore Brennan Morris. After another Panther miss, sophomore Justin Kouyoumdjian sank a pair of free throws to give Tufts an 81-74 lead with 44 seconds left. That would be too much for the Panthers to overcome and the Jumbos picked up the 85-76 win.
The game was a close one from the start as the two teams traded the lead and there were four ties in the first 10 minutes. With the score knotted at 19, Savage put the Jumbos ahead with two free throws and then Kouyoumdjian increased the lead to four with a layup. After a Panther layup from Alex Sobel, freshman Carson Cohen sunk a three to put the Jumbos ahead, 26-21, with 7:38 left in the first half.
Down by four, the Panthers got a three from Kornaker and then Eric McCord made a free throw to tie things at 27 with 5:20 left in the half. Aronson turned in a three on the Jumbos next possession to put them ahead again. But the Panthers evened the game again at 37 off a layup from Kornaker with 55 seconds left in the half. After the two teams traded free throws, Aronson drained a three that put the Jumbos ahead, 41-39, to head into the break.
Out of the break, Savage made a three to increase the Jumbo lead to five, 44-39, but then McCord made a layup to cut that lead to three again. That was the way the second half would go. The game was tied seven times in the second half, and the lead changed four times. The last final tie and lead change came when Aronson's free throws tied things and gave the Jumbos the lead with 4:08 left in the game. The Jumbos would not trail after that.
Savage led the Jumbo scorers with 19 points and ten rebounds, and he also added three assists and two steals. Aronson finished with 17 points and five rebounds. Morris added 16 points and five rebounds, and Kouyoumdjian was the last Jumbo to score in double-digits with 11 points. Cohen added eight points off the bench for the Jumbos.
McCord led the Panthers with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jack Farrell finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Matt Folger and Kornaker added nine points each and Kornaker added six rebounds and four assists as well. Sobel turned in eight points and four boards off the bench.