January 4, 2010

The Panther men's basketball team is off to its best start in school history after a 63-52 road win over Rensselaer to open the second semester. Senior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) posted a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, as three other players added double-digits in points to lead the seventh-ranked Panthers in non-conference action at East Campus Arena.

The Panthers opened up strong in the first half, going on a 17-0 run through the first eight minutes of the contest. First-year player Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) sparked the run with six points, including a three-pointer. Rensselaer finally found its way onto the scoreboard at 11:32 on a jumper by Eric Anderson. The Engineers established momentum over the remaining minutes, cutting the Middlebury advantage to 28-20 at halftime. D.J. Blakemore led the way for RPI, posting eight points, while Edwards had seven points and six rebounds to pace the Panthers through the first 20 minutes of play.

Middlebury continued to press in the second half, building a double-digit lead through the first three minutes of action. Rensselaer cut the deficit to 34-28 on four consecutive free throw shots by Anderson, but a three-pointer by Edwards extended the Panthers' lead back to 37-28 at the 14:08 mark. The home team got as close as 40-36 with eight minutes remaining on a Blakemore layup. The momentum swung to Middlebury with a 10-1 spurt, for a 50-39 lead with 4:37 left in the contest.

After a bucket by Jeremy Bull at the 1:16 mark cut the Panther lead to 57-48, the Engineers were forced to foul. Middlebury responded, hitting 6/8 free throws down the stretch, including 5/6 by first-year player Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.).

In addition to game-highs of 16 points and 11 boards, Edwards added a game-best five assists, while sophomore Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) added 14 points and seven boards. Thompson and Wolfin each contributed 10 points.

Middlebury broke open a halftime tie against Hamilton, pulling out a 62-47 victory at Pepin Gym on Saturday. The Panthers' defense held the Continentals to .229 shooting from the floor in the second half and .258 for the game. With the win, the Panthers extend their school-best start to a season at 9-0, while the Continentals even their overall mark at 4-4.

After Middlebury opened an early 6-0 cushion, Hamilton battled back tying the game at six apiece with 15:50 left in the first half. The visitors took their first lead at 13:16 on a lay-up by Hugh Hunter and followed a Panther miss with a bucket from Ken Click for a 13-10 advantage with 12:51 on the clock. Middlebury responded with a 7-0 run over the next three minutes, building a 17-13 lead with 9:51 remaining. Wolfin keyed the burst with five points including a three-pointer. The Panthers held a small lead through the next several minutes before Hamilton's Pat Sullivan hit a jumper, cutting their deficit to 24-23 with 56 seconds left in the first. Teammate Jay Simpson hit a pair of free throws with 30 ticks left, giving the Continentals a 25-24 lead.

Middlebury retook the lead at 27-25 with 15 seconds left on a three from sophomore Winslow Hicks (San Francisco, Calif.). In the final seconds, Simpson was fouled driving to the hoop for the equalizer. He hit both attempts and sent the teams to intermission locked at 27 apiece.

Both teams played even in the first few minutes of the second half before Hamilton cracked open their largest lead at 38-33 on a 7-0 burst. A three from Ephraim McDowell at the 12:30 mark capped the run. The Panthers answered again, notching their own 11-0 run over the next four minutes, for a 44-38 lead. Threes by Edwards and Thompson along with a traditional three-point play by Sharry highlighted the burst.

The Panthers lead grew to 11 before a three by Russ Rosenband with 3:15 left set the score at 55-47. The score could have been cut to six after Simpson stole the ball and dashed to the hoop for a Hamilton lay-in, but the ball rattled out. In transition, Wolfin hit a huge three-pointer for an 11 point cushion with 2:45 remaining, thwarting the Hamilton comeback bid.

Sharry had a huge day with 13 points and a game-high 11 boards to go along with his career-best six blocks. Wolfin added 13 while Thompson chipped in 11 for Middlebury.
. Men's basketball record: 9-0
. Up next: 1/5 vs. Plattsburgh - 7:30, 1/7 vs. C. Sawyer - 7:30, 1/9 @ Skidmore, 1/10 @ Lyndon