March 1, 2010

            The Panther men's basketball will makes its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance when they host a regional on March 5th & 6th in Pepin Gym. The Panthers will take on Gordon on Friday at 8:00 p.m., with Rhode Island College and Rutgers-Newark playing at 6:00. The winners meet on Saturday night at 7:00 in the regional final.

            Middlebury saw its hope of a second straight NESCAC Championship come up short, as they fell at Williams 64-56 in the title game. The second-ranked Ephs improve to 26-1 on the season, while the sixth-ranked Panthers fall to 24-3.

Williams opened the game with a 10-0 run, extending its lead to 30-11 with 6:51 left in the first half. Middlebury battled back, going on a 17-6 run to cut the lead to 36-28 on a pair of free throws from junior Jamal Davis (Brooklyn, N.Y.) with 44 seconds remaining in the half. Joe Goeghegan hit the last bucket of the session to give the Ephs a 38-28 advantage at the intermission.

            A three from first-year player Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) early in the second half cut the Williams lead to 40-33, while a bucket from sophomore Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) made it a 45-40 game with 13:30 remaining. Trailing 49-44 at the 10:33 mark, the Panthers saw the Ephs go on a quick 5-0 spurt to regain a 10-point lead at 54-44.

Middlebury would not go away, continuing to chip into the lead, cutting it to 60-56 on a bucket from Sharry with 1:30 remaining. The Williams defense held, as James Wang hit 4-4 free throws in the final 28 seconds to seal the victory.

The Panthers made just 7 of 17 (.412) free throws in the game, shooting .344 from the floor and 7-23 (.304) from behind the arc. Williams shot .442 from the floor, an impressive feat against the Middlebury defense, which leads the nation with a .362 FG% defense.

            Four Panthers were in double figures in the game, led by Sharry with 13 points. Wolfin, senior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) and junior Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) each added 11 in the game. Edwards and Sharry each grabbed seven boards, while Locke had four blocks. With the first of his game-high four steals, Edwards became the school's all-time leader with 190, surpassing John Humphrey's ('85-'88) mark of 190.

Wang was the lone Eph in double figures netting a game-high 19, while Geoghegan added eight points and a game-high 15 rebounds. 

            Middlebury advanced to the title game after a 65-48 win over Colby in the semifinals. The 24th win of the season tied the team's school record for wins. Colby led 4-2 on a hoop from Mike Russell early, but that would be their only lead of the game. Middlebury led by as many as six in the first half, taking a 29-25 advantage into the locker room.

            Locke scored the first six points of the second half and eight of the Panthers' first 10 as second-seed Middlebury took control of the game. A one-handed alley-oop jam off a feed from Edwards punctuated the run. Locke had three dunks in the second half to spark the team.

            The Panthers continued to extend their lead in the second half, pulling away with a game-high 23-point lead with 4:55 remaining.

            Locke and rookie Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) led the team with 13 points apiece, while Edwards chipped in with 10. Locke blocked four shots, Edwards had five assists, while Wolfin scored eight with four assists. Christian van Loenen was the lone Mule to crack double figures with 10.

• Men's basketball record: 24-3

• Up next: 3/5 vs. Gordon - 8:00 (NCAA Regional), 3/6 - Regional Final - 7:00