March 11, 2013

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a 67-63 road win at Cortland. The Panthers (24-3) will return to action on Saturday the 16th, when they host Ithaca at 4:00 p.m.

Cortland (24-5) took its biggest lead of the first half when Jeremy Smith hit a three at the 8:08 mark to give his team a 23-17 advantage. Middlebury battled back, leading 28-27 before closing the first half on an 8-0 run. A pair of threes from junior Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) sparked the run as the Panthers took a 36-27 lead into the halftime break. Middlebury scored 19 of the half's final 23 points.

The Red Dragons cut the lead to four in the second half before a jumper from sophomore Hunter Merryman (San Marino, Calif.) gave Middlebury a 47-38 lead at the 14:27 mark. Cortland followed with a 10-2 run over the game’s next 3:26 to tie the game at 48-48 on a three from Brian Manning with 11:01 left to play. The run continued and would eventually extend to 17-2 when Kevin McMahon’s three-point play gave his team a 55-48 advantage with 8:53 remaining.

Middlebury chipped away, tying the game at 60-60 at the 2:31 mark on a pair of free throws from Kizel. Cortland missed a pair of threes before senior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) put his team up 62-60. Kizel made 3-4 free throws as Middlebury held a 65-60 lead with 27 ticks on the clock. Lamard Herron brought his team back with a three from Cortland, but Lynch converted a pair of free throws on the other end to give his team a comfortable 67-63 lead with 12 seconds remaining.

Cortland missed nine of its final 11 shots from the field down the stretch, much-in-part to a stingy Panther defense. The loss was also the first of the season at home for the Red Dragons, who fell to 13-1 on their home court. Kizel finished with 22 points on 7-12 shooting with four assists, while junior James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.) netted 13 with a team-high 11 rebounds. Lynch added 10 points in the win, while senior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) scored eight.

McMahon led all scorers with 24 points and 11 boards on 11-15 shooting from the floor. Jesse Winter added 12 points for the Red Dragons, while Manning netted nine.

• Men’s basketball record: 24-3

• Up next: 3/16 vs. Ithaca – 4:00 (NCAA Third Round)