March 8, 2010

Leading by 15 at the half, Rhode Island College shot .520 from the floor in the second half to hold off Middlebury on its way to a 75-59 win over the Panthers in Pepin Gym. The Anchormen (22-7) advance to next weekend's round of 16 at Williams, while the Panthers (25-4) end their season with a school-record for wins.

            Rhode Island College took advantage of ice-cold Middlebury shooting early, taking an 11-1 lead with 14:32 remaining. The Panthers missed their first nine shots from the floor and were being outrebounded 10-4 early on. Junior Ryan Wholey's (Pelham, N.H.) 15-footer from the right baseline was Middlebury's first field goal of the game, making it an 11-3 game at the 13:50 mark.

            RIC kept coming, extending its lead to 18-5 on a pair of free throws from Carl Lee with 10:38 left. Middlebury first-year player Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to seven, before RIC came back to own a 31-18 lead on a lay-up from Antone Gray with 3:05 remaining. The Anchormen closed the first half with a three from Nick Manson, taking a 37-22 lead into the break.       

            RIC's bench outscored Middlebury 19-2 in the first half, as they shot .448 from the floor. The Panthers shot .267, including just 2 of 13 from three-point range.

            RIC extended its lead to 18 on a hoop from Darius Debnam at 18:34 of the second half, before Middlebury went on a 10-0 run. Five different players scored during the spurt, including a lay-up from sophomore Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) followed a block from junior Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.). The lead remained around 10 until the Panthers cut the margin to 58-52 on a hoop from Sharry with 7:10 to play. RIC hit four of its next five shots, owning a 67-58 lead with 4:25 left to play. The Anchormen outscored the Panthers 8-1 from that point on, emerging with a 75-59 win.

            The Anchorman bench held a huge advantage in the game, outscoring Middlebury 33-6. RIC ended the game shooting .481 from the floor, while the Panthers finished at .400 after shooting .533 in the second half. Middlebury made just 2 of 22 (.091) from behind the arc and 9 of 17 (.529) free throws, while RIC hit 8 of 18 (.444) from three-point range and 15 of 19 (.789) from the charity stripe.

            Five players finished in double-figures for RIC, led by Lee's 15 points and six boards. Antone Gray scored 12 with five assists, while Mike Akinrola and Manson netted 11 apiece. Mason Choice finished the game with 10 points and five assists, while James Grimes grabbed eight boards.

            Sharry led all scorers with 25 points and a career/game-high 14 rebounds in the game, while Wolfin added 13. Senior Tim Edwards (Greenwich, Conn.) finished the night with seven rebounds, six assists and three blocks, while Locke scored nine with four blocks.

Middlebury advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals after a 64-57 win over Gordon College on Friday night. The win is the first NCAA Tournament victory for the Panthers, giving them their school-record 25th of the season, against just three losses. Gordon ends its season with a 24-5 mark.

Locke was the story for Middlebury, breaking his own school record with 13 blocked shots for the Panthers, to go along with nine points and four boards. Middlebury ended the night with 16 total blocked shots. The strong defense helped the Panthers, as they shot just .344 from the floor in the win. Gordon converted 21 of 25 free throws in the game to stay within striking distance.

Middlebury came out strong early, taking a 12-5 lead at the 14:55 mark behind five points from Wolfin and four from Locke. Gordon cut the advantage to three before a 10-0 run extended the Panther lead to 27-14 with 7:46 remaining in the half. Six points from Sharry sparked the Middlebury run. Trailing 30-18, the Fighting Scots closed the half on an 11-2 run to cut the Middlebury lead to 32-29 at the half. David Dempsey led Gordon down the stretch, scoring six points in the final 3:15.

            Middlebury opened the second half on an 11-3 run to take a 43-32 lead behind a pair of threes from rookie Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio). One of the threes came after back-to-back blocks on the defensive end for Locke. The lead grew to as many as 16 on a three from Sharry at the 12:11 mark to make it a 52-36 game. Gordon hung tough and chipped away, cutting the lead into single digits down the stretch.

Locke continued his intimidation in the middle, as the 6'10" center blocked a shot and followed with a drawn charge with 3:05 remaining. Three free throws from Gordon's Aaron Trigg cut the lead to 57-52 with 1:42 left to play. Following a miss by the Panthers, Thompson stole a pass and converted a lay-up with just under a minute to go, extending the lead to 59-52. The Panthers made 5-8 free throws down the stretch to emerge with the 64-57 win.

Thompson led the Panthers with 17 points, Sharry scored 14 with nine boards, while Edwards scored 12 with 11 rebounds. Brady Bajema of Gordon led all scorers with 21, followed by Greg Walker with a dozen and Dempsey with 10.

• Men's basketball final record: 25-4