February 16, 2009

The Panther men's basketball team clinched the top seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament for the first time in school history. The Panthers earned the right after a 78-76 double-overtime win at Trinity. The win extends Middlebury's school-record winning streak to 17 games.

Senior Ben Rudin (Scarsdale, N.Y.) drove the length of the floor and dished to sophomore Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) for the game-winning lay-up with three seconds left in the second overtime to lead Middlebury to their 10th straight NESCAC road win dating back to '06-'07.

Trinity took a 76-74 lead in the first minute of the second overtime on a jumper by Luke MacDougall, but the Panther defense held Trinity without a point the rest of the way. Free throws by Middlebury junior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) and sophomore Jamal Davis (Brooklyn, N.Y.) tied the game at 76-76 with two minutes on the clock. Trinity had the ball in the final minute but the Middlebury defense forced a long three-point try by Ian Fels as the shot clock expired. Locke rebounded the ball, passed to Rudin and sprinted to the Middlebury basket to receive Rudin's pass for the clincher.

Trinity's Chris Applegate forced the first overtime on a put-back with nine seconds left in regulation, and Middlebury overcame a six-point deficit with under a minute to play in the first extra frame. Rudin scored two layups in the final 31 seconds of the first overtime, and Panther senior guard Kyle Dudley (Scarsdale, N.Y.) stole a Trinity pass to set Rudin up for the second one.

MacDougall came off the bench to lead all scorers with a career-high 30 points, making 10 of 15 shots from the field, three out of four from long range, and seven out of eight from the foul line. Aaron Westbrooks added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Paul Rowe had 10 points and five boards. Applegate controlled the glass with a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots and Fels dished out six assists.

Rudin totaled 23 points and six assists for Middlebury, while senior Aaron Smith (W. Hartford, Conn.) added 15 points, and rookie Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds off the Panther bench.

The Middlebury men's basketball team saw its winning streak come to an end on Saturday as the Panthers dropped their final game of the regular season by a score of 71-64 at Amherst. Middlebury ends the regular season at 21-3, 9-1 in NESCAC play. The loss snaps a school-record 17-game winning streak for the Panthers, as well as a 10-game NESCAC road streak that dates back to '06'-07.

Middlebury took a quick 6-2 lead, before Glenn Wong put home a three from the top of the key for Amherst. After five minutes of play, the Panthers led by just two points at 13-11. The Lord Jeffs remained down by a single score until a pair of sophomore Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) free throws put the Panthers up 19-15 with 11:52 to play.

Brian Baskauskas dropped home a jumper from the baseline, before Amherst rookie David Waller made a pair of free throws to tie the game 19-19 with 10:36 to go in the frame. Jeff Holmes looked smooth on a baseline jumper with seven and a half minutes remaining, tying the game at 25-apiece.

After an Edwards triple for the Panthers, Wong hit a deep three from the left side to keep Amherst on par. Conor Meehan found Taylor Barrise on a back-door cut to put Amherst up 32-30. With three minutes remaining, Kurt Bennett put home a short jumper, before Barrise hit a three to leave Amherst up 37-34.

Amherst was unable to open up a lead, as Rudin continued to score in the final minutes of the first half. A deep Baskauskas three rimmed out to end the half with Middlebury up 39-37.

At the break, Rudin led all players with 15 points, while Baskauskas paced the Jeffs with 10 points and four rebounds.

Meehan scored on back-to-back lay-ups to help Amherst open up a 45-40 lead less than five minutes into the second half. The lead grew to eight points just seconds later as Meehan found Baskauskas for a transition three from the left side, forcing Middlebury to call timeout. After a Panther score, Bradley drained a deep three to put Amherst up 51-42.

Middlebury responded, scoring on consecutive and-one opportunities, cutting the gap to 54-52 with 9:17 to play. Amherst called timeout, but on the ensuing possession was whistled for a shot clock violation. Before the Panthers could score again, Baskauskas scored to bring his total to 18 points, and put Amherst back up four.

With two minutes to play, Amherst nearly forced a shot clock violation from Middlebury, and then took possession on a scramble as the buzzer went. With the Jeffs up seven points, Rudin hit a three to close to 66-62 with 1:30 to play.

Neither team scored until Middlebury fouled Waller with 55.5 seconds to play, as the first-year made 1-of-2 at the line. Rudin scored with 44.2 left for the Panthers, leaving Amherst up just three points with possession. Middlebury took a steal on the inbound, but Rudin's bid in the lane rimmed out. Baskauskas took the rebound and found Bradley in the backcourt for a timeout with 30.6 to play.

With the shot-clock off, Middlebury was forced to foul Meehan, who knocked down both free throws. Baskauskas blocked Middlebury's bid on the ensuing trip, leaving Waller at the line to put the Jeffs up 71-64 with 11 seconds left. The free throws were the final points of the game, as Amherst picked up the win.

In the end, Baskauskas finished with 18 points and 12 boards for a double-double, while Meehan and Wong added a combined 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Rudin led all scorers with a career-high 29 points and seven rebounds for Middlebury, while Locke added 11 and Smith had nine boards.
. Men's basketball record: 21-3
. Up next: 2/21 vs. Conn. College - 3:00 (NESCAC Quarterfinals)