January 14, 2013

Middlebury College men’s basketball senior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) became the school’s all-time assist leader as the third-ranked Panthers (12-0, 3-0) remained undefeated with an 85-68 win over Connecticut College (5-9, 0-3) in Pepin Gym. Wolfin finished the game with six assists to bring his career total to 463, surpassing Ben Rudin’s 460 from ’06-’09.

Connecticut College jumped out to a 12-4 lead behind four points from Aaron McBurne in the game’s first 3:18. Middlebury answered with an 8-0 run sparked by a pair of threes from senior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) to tie the game at 12-12 at the 13:49 mark. The game was even throughout the remainder of the half, with the Camels taking a 36-34 lead at the intermission after seven first half ties. Thompson finished the first session with 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the floor.

Middlebury opened the second half on an 8-0 spurt, taking a 44-36 lead at the 16:24 mark on a steal and three-point play from junior Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.). The Camels cut the advantage to four at 13:14, with a quick 6-0 burst making it a 53-43 game at the 11:54 mark on a three from sophomore Hunter Merryman (San Marino, Calif.).

Wolfin earned the record-breaking assist on a three from Kizel, with Matt Vadas of Conn. College answering to cut the lead to 64-58 with 6:34 remaining. The Panthers followed with a 9-2 run, enjoying a comfortable 13-point lead (73-60) on a three from Merryman at the 4:29 mark. Middlebury connected on 6-6 free throws down the stretch, coming away with the 85-68 victory.

Thompson led all scorers with 22 points on 7-9 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. On the other end of the floor, he held the conference’s leading scorer Vadas (20.9 ppg) to just seven points on the evening. Kizel scored 19 points with five assists, Merryman netted 14, while junior James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.) scored 11 with seven boards.

Middlebury survived an overtime scare from Wesleyan, as the Panthers emerged with a 78-77 win over the Cardinals in a NESCAC contest in Pepin Gym.

The game was slow-going early on, with Wesleyan holding a 2-0 lead as Middlebury missed its first five shots from the floor. With the game tied at 7-7, the Cardinals went on a 10-1 run to take a 17-8 lead at the 10:18 mark on a three from Bryan Galvin. Wesleyan’s lead stood at eight with 7:39 remaining in the half when the Panthers went on a 10-0 run. A three-point play by Jensen capped the run as the Panthers held a 25-23 advantage. The Cardinals missed a three late in the half before Wolfin connected from midcourt at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 30-29 lead at the intermission.

Middlebury extended its lead in the second half, using an 11-0 run to take a 46-35 lead on a hoop from Kizel at the 13:37 mark. The Panthers led by a game-high 13 points with 5:55 remaining, before the Cardinals battled back. Trailing 64-53, Wesleyan’s Mike Callahan scored seven of 10 points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 64-62 with 1:25 remaining.

Kizel knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end, before Callaghan hit an 18-foot fade-away from the top of the key to make it a 66-64 game with 49 seconds remaining. Middlebury ran the play clock down before Thompson connected on a spin move to the lane to again make it a four-point contest with 19 seconds left to play. Sasha Brown knocked down two free throws for Wesleyan before Wolfin made 1-2 for the Panthers with 6.8 seconds remaining, giving his team a 69-66 lead. Middlebury led by three and quickly fouled, sending Brown to the line with 3.2 seconds left to play. After converting the first, Brown intentionally missed the second shot as the front-rimmed free throw bounced straight back to him. He quickly drove to the right and converted a lay-up at the buzzer to force the game into overtime tied at 69 apiece.

In the extra session, the teams exchanged buckets, with Wesleyan trailing 76-75 with 1:31 remaining. Thompson earned an offensive rebound and was fouled, converting a pair to give his team a 78-75 lead. Brown converted on the other end for Wesleyan to make it a one-point game, before a missed three by the Panthers left Wesleyan the ball down by one with 14 seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, Brown worked the ball and eventually tried to cut hard to the left wing 20 feet from the basket. Brown slightly lost his footing and was forced to toss up a desperation three that missed as time expired.

Middlebury was led by 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 6-9 shooting from Kizel. Thompson scored 18, senior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) netted 12 with six boards, while Wolfin had 11 with four assists. Junior Jack Roberts (Moylan, Pa.) blocked three shots in the game.

• Men’s basketball record: 13-0

• Up next: 1/15 @ Castleton – 7:00, 1/18 vs. Hamilton – 6:00