Hamilton's Greg Newton nailed an 18-foot jumper with six seconds left that lifted the Continentals to a 76-74 NESCAC win Sunday afternoon against Middlebury in Margaret Bundy Scott Field House. The Continentals (11-9, 2-4 NESCAC) had lost their last seven games against Middlebury but they still lead the all-time series, 22-18. Hamilton's last win against the Panthers was during the 2005-06 season. Hamilton hosts Tufts for a conference game on Friday, February 7th, while Middlebury travels to Keene State for a non-conference contest on Tuesday, February 4th.
In the first half, the Panthers held a 20-14 lead with 9:46 to go, but the Continentals roared back with a 14-2 run that gave Hamilton a six-point edge at 28-22 with 4:13 remaining. Santos' jumper with 2:04 left put the Continentals up 32-24 and represented the largest lead of the half for either team.
The Panthers (12-7, 3-3) recovered from a 14-point deficit early in the second half by shooting 59.3 percent from the floor during the final 20 minutes. Hamilton led 34-29 at the break and opened the second half with a 12-3 run for its largest lead of the afternoon at 46-32 with 16:01 to go. Middlebury responded with an 18-4 run and a layup by Dylan Sinnickson forced the seventh tie at 50-50 with 9:40 remaining.
Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way and there were five more ties. A layup by Kizel put the Panthers up 68-64 with 2:23 left. It was Middlebury's largest lead since midway through the first half.
Matt Hart pulled the Continentals within one on Hamilton's first three-pointer of the day with 1:58 to go. After Jensen made 1-2 free throws, Hart drained another trifecta and put Hamilton back in the lead at 70-69 with 1:20 remaining. Joey Kizel nailed a shot from beyond the arc that put the Panthers back up by two with 1:09 left, and Hart answered with his third three-pointer in 65 seconds for a 73-72 edge for the Continentals with 53 seconds to go.
Following a Middlebury turnover, Newton was fouled and he made one free throw that gave Hamilton a two-point cushion with 41.3 seconds remaining. Kizel was fouled on the Panthers' next possession and he calmly made both free throws to tie the score at 74-74 with 29 seconds left. After Newton's basket, Middlebury had one last chance but a three-point attempt for the win came up short and the buzzer sounded before anyone could grab the rebound.
Hart tied a career high with 30 points for the Continentals, 21 of them in the second half.
Ajani Santos dropped in a career-best 13 points for Hamilton, while Bradley Gifford just missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Newton finished with nine points and tied a career high with eight assists.
Kizel scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half and added five assists for Middlebury. Hunter Merryman chipped in 12 points, while Matt St. Amour added 12 markers off the bench in 16 minutes. James Jensen scored 11 and Jack Roberts grabbed nine boards.