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Women's basketball falls at Middlebury in NESCAC opener

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- Middlebury grabbed a 10-0 lead and never relinquished the upper hand in defeating the Bates women's basketball team 67-54 Friday night in both teams' NESCAC opener.

Four Middlebury (5-6, 1-0 NESCAC) players scored in double figures, and three of them amassed at least 14 points and eight rebounds. Scarlett Kirk had 17 points and 10 boards, Elizabeth Knox totaled 14 points and 10 boards and Alexis Coolidge notched 14 points and eight caroms from off the bench. Sarah Marcus added 15 points, including 3-of-5 shooting from behind the three-point arc.

The Bobcats (7-6, 0-1 NESCAC) were beaten on the boards by a 54-31 count and held to 31.7 percent shooting from the field. Bates made the most of only 11 free throw attempts, making nine of them, and the Bobcats committed just 10 turnovers.

Senior Meredith Kelly (Cohasset, Mass.) scored 17 points with five rebounds, and junior Allaina Murphy (Poland Springs, Maine) added 12 points, six rebounds and three steals, but Bates' top scoring tandem was limited to a combined 10-for-33 field-goal shooting performance. Kelly is now within four points of joining the Bates women's basketball program's 1,000 career points club, at 996.

Marcus drilled a three to open the game, and she made another to complement a pair of two-point buckets by Kirk to propel the Panthers to a game-opening 10-0 run. Bates got on the scoreboard at the 14:30 mark on a three by Murphy.

Unfortunately it was the only make of Murphy's 11 field-goal attempts in the half, and as a team the Bobcats were held to 6-of-30 shooting in the period, including 1-of-11 behind the arc, as Middlebury coasted to a commanding 34-15 lead at intermission.

Bates broke the ice, in terms of offense, when senior Julia Rafferty (Reading, Mass.) drilled a three to beat the shot clock 68 seconds into the second half. Murphy beat the shot clock again with a nice drive and layup, followed by a strong post move, and Kelly drove for a hard-earned layup to make it an 8-0 run for Bates, cutting the lead to 40-24. Middlebury was matching basket for basket, however, until high-pressure defense led to a series of Middlebury turnovers, allowing Bates to make a modest cut into the lead, though Kelly's three at the 7:17 mark could only close the gap to 14 at 50-36.

Kelly made another three to make it 61-49 with 2:00 to go, giving Bates a glimmer of hope, and Murphy followed a Kirk layup with another three to make it 63-52, Middlebury's smallest lead since 23-13, but only 1:11 remained in regulation.

Rafferty finished with six points on 2-of-2 shooting behind the arc, and added five assists and three steals.

Bates plays at the University of New England on Monday at 7pm before resuming NESCAC play with home games against Trinity next Friday and Amherst next Saturday.