MEDFORD, Mass. — Second-ranked Middlebury overcame a 13-point second-half deficit and got a last-second block by junior James Jensen to secure a 70-69 win at Tufts in NESCAC action on Saturday.
The Panthers remained unbeaten, improving to 11-0 overall. They were led by 13 points apiece from Jake Wolfin and Hunter Merryman. Tufts, which led 37-30 at halftime, dropped to 6-7 overall. Tom Palleschi scored a career-high 27 points in the losing effort.
The Jumbos trailed for just 20 seconds in the first half and led by as many as 13 points (37-24) after a traditional three-point play by Scott Anderson with 1:57 remaining. However, Middlebury got 3-pointers from Wolfin and Nolan Thompson in the final 90 seconds to narrow the margin to 37-30 at intermission. Palleschi had 15 points at the half on 7-of-10 shooting. Seven points by Wolfin led the Panthers.
Tufts scored the first six points of the second half to open up a 43-30 advantage on a layup by Ben Ferris. Palleschi’s basket at 12:57 gave the Jumbos a 52-39 margin.
With Tufts leading 58-49, the Panthers initiated a 14-3 run that turned the game around. Six different Middlebury players scored during the stretch as they surged to a 63-61 lead on a layup by Jensen with 4:39 on the clock.
A layup by Palleschi tied the score at 63, but the Panthers scored the next five points and led 68-63 with 2:45 left. Palleschi continued to dominate with a layup making it 68-65, but Middlebury’s Peter Lynch responded for a 70-65 Panther margin. Jumbo Oliver Cohen’s jumper closed it to 70-67 at 1:39.
Out of a Tufts timeout, Middlebury missed a layup that Palleschi rebounded. At the other end, his layup pulled the Jumbos within 70-69 with 24 seconds on the clock. Following another timeout, Jensen turned the ball over on Middlebury’s next possession. However, he made amends by blocking a last-second Tufts attempt and Wolfin grabbed the rebound to win it.
Four Panthers scored in double digits overall, including 12 points each by Joey Kizel and Lynch. Kizel added nine rebounds and five assists, while Wolfin and Thompson both recorded seven boards. Middlebury outscored Tufts 15-6 at the free throw line.
Palleschi was good on 13-of-18 field goals in the game and made three blocks. The Jumbos finished at 50.8 percent (30-for-59) overall. Stephen Haladyna added 14 points and Anderson had 10.