MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Junior Graham Safford made his only 3-point make of the game count, hitting the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds left to give Bates men's basketball a 64-61 win over Middlebury College in the NESCAC opener for both teams in Pepin Gym on Friday night.
After absorbing a bump from a defender, Safford (Hampden, Maine) regained his balance and pulled up from 25 feet to knock down the winning basket for the Bobcats (8-4, 1-0 NESCAC). Bates beat the Panthers (6-5, 0-1 NESCAC) for the first time since Feb. 3, 2007.
The Panthers did not trail over the game's first 36 minutes until a tip-in from first-year Malcolm Delpeche (Wilmington, Del.) provided Bates with a 54-53 lead, its first, with 3:55 to play as the teams traded the lead five times in the last four minutes.
Each side hit a pair of free throws before Middlebury's Joey Kizel made another foul shot and eventually drilled a 3-pointer after missing his second free throw to push the Panthers back ahead at 59-56 with 2:22 to play. On the ensuing possession, Bates junior Adam Philpott (Gloucester, Mass.) canned his first 3-pointer of the game to knot the score at 59-59.
The Bobcats took a 61-59 lead with 1:03 to go off a layup from senior Luke Matarazzo (Shelton, Conn.) after the 5-9 guard corralled a critical defensive rebound on the other end. Middlebury's Matt St. Amour converted two free throws with 44 seconds to play, setting the stage for Safford's shot in the clutch. A final attempt from Kizel to tie the game at the buzzer was off the mark.
Safford scored a team-high 18 points despite shooting 6-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-8 from 3-point distance. Delpeche tallied 17 points and nine rebounds, and Philpott posted 10 points and five boards off the bench. Sophomore Mike Boornazian (Portland, Conn.) chipped in nine points, five rebounds, and four assists.
For Middlebury, Dylan Sinnickson netted a game-best 23 points, including 17 in the first half, in his first game action since Nov. 16. Kizel recorded 12 points and seven rebounds, and Hunter Merryman had 11 points.
The Panthers held a lead as large as 15 points, 27-12, at the 10:31 mark of the first half after completing a 16-2 run and took a 36-25 advantage into halftime.
Midway through the second half, Bates used an 11-1 run to trim its deficit to two points at 42-40. After a 9-0 spurt from Middlebury, the Bobcats went on a 14-2 run with Delpeche's tip-in at the end of the streak giving the team its 54-53 lead. The Bobcats made eight of their last 10 field-goal attempts, spanning the final eight minutes.
Next, Bates hosts Trinity on Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. and Amherst on Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. in the team's first NESCAC home games of the year.