February 4, 2013

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team won three games last week, two of them in NESCAC play on the road. The sixth-ranked Panthers enter the final week of the regular season with a 19-1 mark.

Middlebury jumped out to a 38-20 halftime lead over visiting Keene State and cruised to a 81-53 win over the Owls in Pepin Gym on Tuesday. With the victory, the sixth-ranked Panthers (17-1) avenged a 77-76 loss at Keene State last season when Middlebury was the top-ranked team in the nation. For the game the Panthers shot 33-56 from the floor and 8-13 from behind the arc, holding the Owls (11-8) to 23-66 from the field and 3-14 from long distance.

Middlebury led 8-6 before a lengthy 20-5 run gave them a 28-11 lead with 9:42 remaining in the first half. The final five points of the run came on a two and a three from senior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.), both following blocks on the defensive end by junior James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.). Keene State went 6:13 without scoring in the first half, with a lay-up from Tom Doyle breaking the drought at the 6:29 mark, making it a 28-13 game. A bucket by sophomore Hunter Merryman (San Marino, Calif.) with 1:46 remaining gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the half at 36-15, as the Panthers went on to take a 38-20 advantage into the break.

Middlebury shot 62.1% from the floor in the first half, blocking seven shots with five of them coming from Jensen. Keene shot just 29% from the floor in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Senior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) gave Middlebury a 20-point lead on a jumper to open the second half as the hosts lead grew to 61-31 midway through the half on a three by senior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio). The lead bulged to 70-33 on a lay-up by junior Jack Roberts (Moylan, Pa.) at 7:29. The Owls put together a late 11-2 run, capped by a three from Bobby Crane from the corner at 4:08 cutting the deficit to 72-44.

Wolfin, junior Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) and Lynch each scored a game-best 14 for Middlebury, as Wolfin notched a game-high nine assists. Thompson went 2-2 from behind the arc, finishing with six points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Roberts finished with nine points and three blocks as the Panthers collected a season-high nine blocks in the game. Jensen finished with a career-high six blocked shots.

Middlebury built a 13-point halftime cushion and held off Bowdoin in a 72-61 win on Friday evening at Morrell Gymnasium. 

Thompson led all players with 19 points for Middlebury, who had three others in double figures. Kizel went 10-10 from the free throw line and finished with 14 points while Jensen added 12 and Lynch had 10. Wolfin dished out six assists in the game, while Lynch pulled down six boards.

The teams traded blows in the first half before a late Panther run pushed the lead to double-digits. Thompson scored all 11 of his first-half points in the final 6:33 of the opening period as Middlebury used a 10-2 run and a quick 6-0 spurt right before the break to take a 43-30 edge at halftime.

Bowdoin closed the gap to seven points following a Pieri jumper at the 13:25 mark of the second half, but the visitors quickly answered with an 8-0 run, capped by a Thompson three-pointer, to take a 55-40 edge with 9:33 to go. Bowdoin would get as close as 10 points on four occasions over the final nine minutes.

The teams grabbed 30 rebounds each as Bowdoin hit on 46% of its shots and Middlebury connected for 44%. The Polar Bears committed 14 turnovers resulting in 17 points for the Panthers.

Middlebury completed a weekend sweep in Maine as the Panthers (19-1, 8-0) earned an 85-62 NESCAC road win at Colby (6-15, 2-6). The Panthers shot 53.4% from the floor and forced 21 Colby turnovers in the game, resulting in 22 points.

Colby held an 11-9 lead early on a three from Connor O’Neil at the 14:33 mark. With the game tied at 18-18, Middlebury went on a 10-2 run behind a pair of threes from Thompson and Kizel to take a 28-20 advantage with 7:33 left in the first half. Leading by five, the Panthers closed the half on a 12-2 run in the final 3:40 to take a 48-33 lead into the intermission. Two more threes from Kizel sparked the run.

The margin grew to 21 early in the second half, as Middlebury scored seven of the first eight points to hold a 55-34 lead. The Mules cut the lead to 10 on a three from Chris Hudnut at the 12:22 mark, but three minutes later, a trey by Wolfin again made it a 20-point game at 70-50 with 9:16 remaining. The lead grew to as many as 27 before the Panthers came away with the 85-62 win.

Lynch led a balanced attack with 18 points on 8-11 shooting, while Jensen netted 13. Kizel scored 12 points in the win, while Thompson added 10. Wolfin finished with nine assists in the contest, bringing his career total to 512.

• Men’s basketball record: 19-1

• Up next: 2/5 vs. Lyndon – 7:30, 2/8 vs. Trinity – 6:00, 2/9 vs. Amherst – 2:00