Middlebury holds off rally by women's basketball for 61-56 win

Nina Davenport drives on Middlebury's Eileen Daley during Bates' 61-56 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 16, 2016. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Middlebury College outscored the Bates College women's basketball team 32-16 in the paint and held off a second-half rally by the host Bobcats to win 61-56 in NESCAC action Saturday afternoon in Alumni Gymnasium.

All five Middlebury (9-5, 2-2 NESCAC) starters scored between nine and 11 points, with Eileen Daley and Sarah Kaufman scoring 11 apiece. Colleen Caveney made all three of her 3-pointers for nine points, while Catherine Harrison grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with nine points. Kaufman dished out a game-high five assists and Alex Huffman scored 10 points.

Junior Bernadette Connors (Windham, N.H.) and sophomore Nina Davenport (Freeport, Maine) scored a game-high 17 points apiece for Bates (5-10, 1-3 NESCAC), with Connors hitting two 3-pointers in the final 2 1/2 of the game to stoke Bates' chances for a victory. 

The Bobcats outrebounded the Panthers 41-33 and held a 14-2 advantage in second-chance points. Middlebury made 25-of-56 field-goal attempts (.446) and 5-of-10 (.500) shots from beyond the arc, while Bates made 18-of-60 (.300) shots, including 6-of-26 (.231) from deep.

Middlebury expanded a 16-13 lead after one quarter into a 10-point advantage less than two minutes into the second period, with a three by Caveney followed by a pair of free throws by Rachel Collins and a Harrison layup. Another three by Caveney gave the Panthers a game-high 11-point advantage (26-15) with 4:13 to go. Bates charged back to within two (26-24) with a 9-0 run, with hoops by four different Bobcats in the streak. Huffman turned a Bates turnover on its last possession into a layup at the other end for a 28-24 Middlebury lead at the half.

Middlebury led 34-28 early in the third quarter and used four consecutive defensive stops to increase the lead to 36-28 when Collins made a layup with 4:51 left in the period. Coppola earned two trips to the free-throw line and made a layup to get the Bobcats back within three (38-35). After a steal by senior Chelsea Nason (Boxford, Mass.), first-year Madeline Foote (Duxbury, Mass.) drove for a layup and the foul, hitting the free throw to close it to 41-40. Sophomore Jackie Welch (Falmouth, Maine) then rebounded a Kaufman miss, was fouled and made both free throws to give Bates a 42-41 advantage with 28 seconds to go in the period, its first lead since 10-7. 

The score was tied at 43 after three quarters, and Bates led for a final time when Foote drained a three to start the fourth period. But a 6-0 Middlebury run, with hoops by Harrison, Weeks and Kaufman, returned the lead to Middlebury for good at 49-46. Kaufman answered a Connors jumper with a three to make it 55-50. Connors drained threes late in the shot clock on consecutive Bates possessions, with the second one cutting the gap to 57-56 with 1:03 to go. Kaufman assisted a Daley layup, and Huffman drove for an unassisted layup in the final minute, while Bates missed three-point attempts on its only two possessions of the game's final minute.

Bates hosts Connecticut College on Friday at 7pm in the third game of a five-game homestand. Middlebury will host Smith in a non-league game on Tuesday.