February 27, 2012

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team will makes its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance when they host a regional on March 2nd & 3rd in Pepin Gym. The Panthers will take on Morrisville on Friday at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a game between Albertus Magnus and St. Joseph’s of Long Island at 5:30. The winners meet on Saturday night at 7:00 in the regional final.

Middlebury saw its hopes of a second straight NESCAC title come to an end as the Panthers suffered a 71-69 loss at Amherst in the title game.  The Jeffs improve to 25-2 overall, earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, winning their first NESCAC crown since ’06. The Panthers, champions in ’09 and ’11, fall to 24-3 overall and have received an at-large bid to the tourney. Middlebury will host an NCAA Regional on Friday, March 2nd and Saturday March 3rd in Pepin Gym.

Middlebury led 13-7 early behind back-to-back threes from senior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) and sophomore Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) with 15:12 remaining. Amherst starter Taylor Barrise picked up two fouls in the game’s first 1:43 and headed to the bench for the remainder of the half. The Panthers had foul trouble of their own as Sharry picked up his second of the game with 12:24 left to play.

Trailing 15-8, Amherst followed with a 12-0 run, much of it with Sharry on the pine, taking a 20-15 lead on a hoop from Aaron Toomey with 9:22 on the clock. The Panthers struggled during the run, not scoring on nine straight trips with four misses and five turnovers.

Middlebury came within one at 20-19 before Sharry picked up his third foul (6:53) and headed to the bench for the remainder of the half. A bucket from Middlebury sophomore James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.) cut the lead to 29-26 with 2:39 remaining, with the Jeffs closing the session on a 7-0 run to take a 36-26 lead into the break.

Amherst shot 51.9% from the floor in the first half, with Middlebury hitting 40% of its shots. Toomey shot 4-7 for 12 points to lead Amherst, while Kizel went 3-4 with eight points for the Panthers.

The Jeffs led 45-31 on a three from Barrise at the 14:54 mark of the second half, with Middlebury cutting the lead to 10 on three different occasions. The lead increased back to 15 again as Toomey hit a pair of free throws to make it a 56-41 game with 9:36 remaining.

Middlebury battled back once again, going on a 19-6 run over the game’s next 4:06 to cut the lead to 62-60 with 3:35 remaining. Following a pair of free throws from Kizel, the sophomore stole the ball and converted a conventional three-point play to make it 56-46. Junior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) followed with a three, while another three from Kizel and a three-point play from Wolfin sparked the run.

Amherst regained a five-point lead, only to have Wolfin cut it to 65-64 on a three with 1:22 remaining. The Jeffs countered with a three-point play from Jeff Holmes before Sharry knocked down a pair to cut the lead to 68-66 with 44 seconds left. Following a missed free throw, Kizel went coast to coast, tying the game at 68-68 with 30 seconds remaining.

After an Amherst timeout, the Jeffs worked the clock until Barrise hit a three with three seconds left. The Jeffs fouled immediately following the timeout, as Kizel hit the first of two.

Trailing by two with one second left, Kizel missed the second shot intentionally with the hopes of getting a tip-in, but time expired as the Jeffs came away with the win.

Amherst continued its hot shooting in the second half, finishing at 50.9% for the game. Middlebury shot 46.2%, hitting on just 7-23 (30.4%) threes, while Amherst converted 6-12. After 10 first half turnovers, the Panthers committed just three in the second session.

Kizel led Middlebury with 21 points on 7-10 shooting with four assists, while Wolfin went 6-12 for 18 points. Sharry netted 10 with 12 boards, while junior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) added 10 with six rebounds.

Toomey paced the Jeffs with 18 to go along with five assists, while Willy Workman went 7-11 for 16 points with eight rebounds. Holmes added nine in the win, while Peter Kaasila netted eight.

Leading 26-25 with 3:38 remaining, Middlebury closed the first half on a 16-2 run to take a 42-27 lead into the intermission in the semifinals vs. Wesleyan. The Panthers hit four straight threes during the run, including a pair from Wolfin and a two and a three from Sharry. Middlebury shot .516 from the floor in the first half, going 4-10 from three-point range after missing their first six attempts. The Panther held Wesleyan to .375 from the floor, dominating the boards at 25-12.

Wesleyan opened the second half on a 9-0 run to jump right back in the game at 42-36 with 17:18 remaining. Mike Callaghan scored five points during the surge, with four coming from Sasha Brown.

Leading 47-41 at the 13:16 mark, the Panthers went on a lengthy  19-2 run over the game’s next 6:13, taking a 66-43 lead on a pair of free throws from sophomore Nate Bullock (Santa Monica, Calif.) with 7:03 remaining. Bullock knocked down 7-8 free throws during the stretch, while junior Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) hit a two and a three.

Middlebury kept up the pressure down the stretch, emerging with the 74-52 victory. Sharry led the team with his 14th double-double of the season, earning a game-high 18 points and 14 rebounds. Thompson added 12 points in the win, Wolfin scored 10, while Kizel had nine points with seven assists. Bullock added nine points in the victory, going 9-10 from the line.

Callaghan led the Cardinals with 16 points and seven boards, Brown added 14, while Glen Thomas scored 10 with seven rebounds.

Middlebury held a 47-32 advantage on the boards, holding Wesleyan to just 1-9 shooting from three-point range.
• Men’s Basketball record: 24-3
• Up next: 3/2-3 – Host NCAA Regional