February 15, 2010

The Middlebury College men's basketball team ended NESCAC play with an 85-72 win at Amherst. The seventh-ranked Panthers move to 21-2 overall, earning the second seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament with an 8-1 record in league play. Middlebury will host seventh-seeded Trinity next Saturday in a quarterfinal match-up in Pepin Gym at 3:00 p.m.

The first five minutes of play had Amherst and Middlebury going back and forth, with DJ Carcieri making a layup at the 14:54 mark to tie the game 12-12. Following the Carcieri score to tie the game, Middlebury responded with an 11-0 run to take a 23-12 lead. During the scoring spurt, first-year player Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) made a three and junior Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) scored in the paint. Middlebury's lead grew to 30-15 as Locke made his presence felt on the defensive end, before Amherst made its next run at the Panthers. The Lord Jeffs went to Peter Kaasila to combat the impact of 6'10" Locke, and the Amherst big man sparked a comeback to close the gap to 38-32 in the final minutes of the first half.

At the half, Middlebury held a 46-38 lead as Amherst's Willy Workman scored with one second remaining in the frame. The second stanza saw the Middlebury lead hover around 10 points until the middle of the half. Workman and Kaasila lifted Amherst to a 5-0 run, and with 10:02 remaining, Amherst trailed just 63-58.

With just under six minutes to play, Middlebury got back-to-back scores from junior Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) to open up a 72-61 lead. Wholey took over the game for the Panthers down the stretch, making a handful of free throws and playing solid defense to go alongside Locke. Wholey finished the night with 22 points to lead all players as Middlebury closed out the game 85-72.

Locke scored 17 points before fouling out, but made his impact on defense where he had a career-high eight blocks. Sophomore Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) also added a double-double for Middlebury, adding 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win. Amherst was paced by Kaasila's 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, while Spencer Noon had a career-high 14 points off the bench.

The previous night, the Panthers earned a 71-57 road win at Trinity.  Middlebury shot 60.7 percent (17-for-28) from the field in the second half and 66.7 percent (8-for-12) from beyond the three-point line in the second half to earn the win. Middlebury earned its third win in a row vs. Trinity after 12 straight losses. 

The teams played even in the first half with Middlebury taking a 28-26 lead thanks to five points in the final two minutes by first-year player Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.). Trinity took a brief lead, 36-32, after a pair of treys by sophomore Jon Pike and junior Ian Fels early in the second half, but the Panthers responded with a furious 20-3 run over the next seven minutes to go ahead, 52-41, midway through the stanza and led by double figures the rest of the way.

Fels scored a team-high 11 points, while junior Luke MacDougall totaled 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Bantams.  Wholey and Sharry each came off the bench to score 15 points, while Wolfin added 13 points and five assists. Sharry pulled down a team-high six boards, while senior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) dished out a game-high eight assists, and Locke contributed six rebounds and three blocked shots.

• Men's basketball record: 21-2

• Up next: 2/16 @ G. Mtn., 2/20 vs. Trinity - 3:00 (NESCAC Quarterfinals)