February 11, 2013

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team won its fifth straight game as the fifth-ranked Panthers defeated Trinity 66-59 in Pepin Gym. The game had little flow with 52 fouls, 39 turnovers and 58 free throws taken in the contest. Middlebury will wrap up its regular season on Tuesday night when they host sixth-ranked Amherst at 7:00 p.m. A Panther win would leave the top seed in a three-way tie with Amherst, Williams and Middlebury, while a win by the Jeffs would secure them the top slot for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament.

Trinity held a 7-2 lead 3:14 into the game before six straight Middlebury points gave the Panthers an 8-7 lead. The game went back and forth, with the eighth tie of the half coming on a bucket from Trinity’s Shay Ajayi with 50 seconds remaining in the half. Junior Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) answered on the other end for the Panthers as they took a 30-28 lead into the intermission.

Leading by one, Middlebury went on a 10-1 run 1:42 into the second half to take a 43-33 lead with 13:47 remaining. A three from Kizel and one from senior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) were the key buckets over the 3:30 span.

Trinity answered by scoring 13 of the game’s next 15 points to cut the lead to one at 46-45 with 8:22 remaining. George Papadeas scored five points during the comeback, while Jaquann Starks hit a three.

The back and forth continued as the Panthers battled back with an 11-2 run to make it a 10-point game at 57-47 with 4:33 left to play. The Bantams were able to come within five on a hoop from Starks with 3:06 remaining, but the Panthers hung tough down the stretch and emerged with the 66-59 win.

Kizel led the team with 16 points, senior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) scored 14, while sophomore Hunter Merryman (San Marino, Calif.) had a dozen. Thompson added eight points and five boards, while senior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) had eight points, three assists and two steals.

Wolfin became the 18th player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau, as the Panthers cruised to an 89-59 win over Lyndon State on Tuesday. Wolfin, who now has 1,004 points in 108 games, becomes the second player this season to join the 1,000-point club after Thompson did so on January 18th. Historically, it is the fifth time Middlebury posted a 20-win season, as the Panthers hit the 20-win plateau each season since the 2008-09 campaign.

Middlebury jumped out to an early 11-0 lead sparked by six straight post-up points by Lynch to open the contest. The Panthers, who never trailed in the contest, took a 21-7 lead on a three from Wolfin, as Middlebury’s all-time assist leader scored his 1,000th point on the long distance bucket at 9:47.

Over the next six minutes the Panthers extended their lead to 34-13, but the Hornets went on a 7-0 run, capped by a three from Jason Gray at 1:57, cutting the deficit to 34-20. Lyndon’s Jose Fortunato’s buzzer-beating tap-in ended the first half as the hosts took a 41-26 lead into the break.

After a Lyndon basket opened the second half, the Panthers responded with a three from Kizel, followed by back-to-back threes from Thompson and a rim-rocking dunk by junior James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.) highlighting a 15-4 run that blew the game wide open. Leading 56-32 with 15:12 remaining, the Middlebury lead grew to 30 on a Merryman three, later bulging to 39 points in the waning minutes as the Panthers cruised to the 89-59 victory.

Merryman led all scorers with 16 points off the bench on 6-9 shooting from the field. Thompson added 15 points and a game-best seven rebounds, while Lynch added a dozen points as five of his six rebounds were on the offensive glass, as Kizel chipped in 10. Wolfin finished with seven points for the Panthers, adding seven assists and two steals.

• Men’s basketball record: 21-1

• Up next: 2/12 vs. Amherst – 7:00 – 2/16 – NESCAC Quarterfinals (TBA)