|Connecticut College athletics file photo
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Connecticut College extended its winning streak to six games with a 72-55 victory over Middlebury on Friday night in NESCAC action at Pepin Gymnasium, pulling into a three-way tie for first place in the middle of the final weekend of the NESCAC regular season. .
John, Trinity and Williams are all tied for first in the conference standings at 8-1. Trinity finishes its NESCAC slate at Tufts on Saturday, while Conn hosts Williams on Sunday afternoon. At 18-5, the Camels have won the most games in program history since 2000-01, when they went 18-7.
The Camels used strong finishes at the end of each half to secure the win. Conn outscored Middlebury 12-3 in the final 5:38 of the first to lead 37-34 at intermission, and then enjoyed a 14-2 advantage in the final 4:19 of the second to pull away late.
David Murray (Jackson Heights, NY) netted a game-high 25 points on 11-for-18 shooting and added 15 rebounds to lead the Camels, who improved to 18-5 overall and 8-1 in league play. Elias Espinosa (Leonia, NJ) and Ben Rice (Hanson, Mass.) also chipped in 16 and 15 points, respectively, as Conn grabbed his first road win in the series since 2008.
The teams swapped the lead back and forth in the opening half, with neither side able to build a sizable advantage. A pair of free throws by Kuba Cwalina gave the Panthers their biggest lead at 31-25 with 6:18 left in the half, but the Camels rallied late to pull back in front. Cam Schainfeld and Jarron Flynn keyed the 12-3 charge with four points apiece, and a layup by Espinosa on the final play of the half left the visitors with a three-point lead at the break.
Rice gave the Camels a boost with a big first half. He led all scorers with 12 points at intermission and shot 5-for-5 in the stanza.
Conn never trailed in the second half and had an answer for every Middlebury challenge. A layup by Murray gave the Camels their first double-digit lead of the night at 54-43 with 9:42 to go, and on the ensuing possession he added a turn-around jumper to push the margin to 13.
After Middlebury used a 10-2 run to creep back to within five with 4:37 remaining, the Camels clamped down on the defensive end and allowed only one more field goal the rest of the way. On the offensive end, Espinosa and Murray combined for 12 of Conn’s final 14 points to help seal the victory.
Only five Camels found the scoring column on the night as Schainfeld and Flynn finished with eight points apiece. Conn shot 50 percent from the floor and went 9-for-10 from the free throw line.