February 9, 2010

The Middlebury College men's basketball team picked up two key NESCAC wins over the weekend in Pepin Gym. The Panthers improved to 19-2 and 6-1 in the NESCAC with a decisive 72-57 win over Colby on Saturday. Middlebury, owners of the top-ranked field goal defense in the nation, stymied the Mules, holding Colby to .194 shooting in the first half and .351 for the game. With the win, Middlebury has secured a home game for the upcoming NESCAC Quarterfinals, and will host a contest on Saturday, February 20th at 3:00 p.m.

In the first half Colby (16-4, 5-2) built a 10-4 lead at 13:15, highlighted by five points from Adam Choice. The Panther defense clamped down on Colby, eventually tying the game at 12 apiece on a buzzer-beating three from junior Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) at 9:47. From that point, the Panthers went on a 25-3 run, holding the Mules to 1-16 shooting from the floor before a Mike Russell basket and free throw with 31 seconds left ended the first half scoring at 37-18 in favor of Middlebury. During the big run, first-year player Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) and junior Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) paced the Panthers with seven points each.

In the second half, Colby burst out with a 6-0 run, cutting the Middlebury lead to 37-24 with 18:12 left. The Panthers, with five points from first-year player Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.), answered with a 9-2 run, building a 46-26 advantage at the 15:23 mark and cruised to a 72-57 victory.

Wholey led Middlebury with 14 points on 4-9 shooting, including 3-5 from behind the arc. Thompson added 11 and Wolfin chipped in 10, as Locke and sophomore Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) grabbed seven rebounds apiece. Choice led all scorers, overcoming a 3-10 first half start to finish with 18 points on 6-13 shooting and hitting 6-7 from the line. Russell added 16 points for Colby, while Chas Woodward collected a game-high 10 rebounds before fouling out early in the second half.

Leading 38-25 at intermission, Middlebury went on a 15-2 run to open the second half en route to a 76-65 win over Bowdoin on Friday night.

Bowdoin jumped out to an early 14-6 lead, highlighted by three buckets from Mark Phillips from the low post. Middlebury responded with a 14-3 run, capped by a three from Wolfin at 9:53 for a 20-17 advantage. After a jumper by Bowdoin's Ryan O'Connell cut the lead to 20-19, the Panthers closed out the half on an 18-6 run for a 38-25 lead at the break. Senior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) added a three, a pair of free throws and a lay-up during the run.

During the decisive run to open the second half, Wolfin added a pair of threes along with a dazzling feed off the backboard that junior Jamal Davis (Brooklyn, N.Y.) dunked home. Trailing 53-27 with 15:32 left, the Polar Bears rallied with a 27-11 run, cutting the gap to 64-54 with 6:45 left. O'Connell and Phillips keyed the comeback effort with eight and six points respectively.

In the remaining minutes, the Panthers maintained their double-digit advantage, holding the Polar Bears to 3/10 shooting, while hitting 4/8 from the floor and 4/5 from the line.

Four Panthers hit double figures, with Wolfin's 14 points leading the way, while Davis added a dozen. Edwards added 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, both game-highs, as Locke chipped in 10 points and blocked a game-high five shots. Phillips paced Bowdoin with 18 points on 8/14 shooting, as O'Connell scored 14 and had a team-high eight rebounds.

• Men's basketball record: 19-2

• Up next: 2/12 @ Trinity, 2/13 @ Amherst