January 9, 2012

The Panther men’s basketball team picked up three more wins last week to improve to 12-0 as the nation’s top-ranked team. On Tuesday, senior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) connected on 19 of 23 field goal attempts and scored a career-high 41 points to lead Middlebury to a 123-111 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in a non-league game at East Campus Arena. The Panthers set a school record for points in a game on their way to improving to 10-0.

RPI opened the game by taking a 15-8 lead four minutes into the first half and held an advantage until Middlebury fought back to tie the game, 20-20 at the 12:21 mark. The score remained close throughout the first half with the Panthers holding a 64-57 lead at the break.

The second half was much of the same up-and-down the court for both teams with Middlebury pulling ahead 79-62 nearly four minutes into the second half. The Panthers held a double-digit advantage until the 12-minute mark when RPI’s Nate Fiala and Pooley each scored six points to help RPI pull to within seven points, 87-80.

After Middlebury increased its lead to 12 points with 8:23 remaining (100-98), the Engineers went on a 10-0 run, thanks to eight points from Pooley and a pair from Daniel Martin, to get within two points (100-98) with 6:44 remaining. The Panthers countered with a 13-4 run for a 113-102 lead with four minutes left and held off the Engineers from there.

In addition to his career-high 41 points, Sharry, a National All-America as a junior, had nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks in 33 minutes. He is the first player from the NESCAC to score as many as 40 points in a game since Kanem Johnson of Wesleyan, who had 42 against Rensselaer on November 30, 2003.

Six other players reached double figures in scoring for the Panthers, who last scored at least 120 points on November 18, 2006, against Mt. Ida. First-year player Dylan Sinnickson (Sands Point, N.Y.) had 15 points and six rebounds, while junior Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) added a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) had six points and tied a career-high 12 assists.

RPI made 42 of its 92 shots for a percentage of 45.7%, while Middlebury made 60.5% of its attempts, connecting on 49 of 81 shots. 

Middlebury opened up NESCAC play with a convincing 79-57 win over Bates (6-5, 0-1) in Pepin Gym on Friday. The Panthers shot .508 from the floor, knocking down 16 of 20 free throws.

The Panthers opened the game on a 12-2 run in the opening 6:33, highlighted by an eight-point and four rebound start from Sharry. After a Bates timeout, the Bobcats made their best run of the game as the tandem of Graham Safford and Will Furbush accounted for the next 10 points, cutting the deficit to 14-12 with 9:35 left. Safford bookended the run with a pair of baskets, as Furbush netted a traditional three-point play with a long-range trey for the other six points during the run.

That was as close as Bates would get as Middlebury ended the first half on a decisive 27-9 run, taking a 41-21 lead at the break. Sharry added another eight points with three lay-ups all set up by great feeds from the guard duo of sophomore Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) and Wofin. The pair had seven of Middlebury’s 11 first half assists allowing the Panthers to shoot .571 from the floor. Sharry ended the half with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Kizel, and sophomore James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.) and Sinnickson each chipped in six points in the first stanza.

In the second half the Panther lead hovered around 20 points before a pair of Sinnickson buckets boosted the advantage to 57-32 with 11:53 left to play. The Bobcats could only close the deficit to 17 points on two occasions as Middlebury cruised to a 79-57 win.

Sharry netted a game-high 24 points on 7-10 shooting to go along with 10 boards. Sinnickson finished with 13 on 5-6 shooting, while Kizel added a dozen with five helpers.

Middlebury shot an impressive .625 from the floor holding off a determined Tufts squad 82-69 on Saturday at Pepin Gym.

The upset-minded Jumbos, one night removed from toppling seventh-ranked Williams, took an early 5-0 lead on a three from Scott Anderson and a jumper by Tom Folliard. The teams battled over the next several minutes as the Panthers took a slim 15-11 lead on a jumper by Sinnickson at 13:04. Tufts answered on a three by Kwame Firempong on its next possession, cutting the Middlebury lead to 15-14. The Panthers countered, using an 11-2 run over the next five minutes for a 26-16 advantage with 7:28 left in the first half.

With 3:13 remaining, Firempong nailed a three, cutting the Jumbo deficit to 33-28 before Middlebury used a 6-0 spurt over the next 1:12 of play, resetting their lead to double-digits at 39-28. C.J. Moss answered for Tufts, scoring the final five points of the half, including a big three with four seconds left, as the Jumbos headed into the break trailing 39-33.

Moss opened the second half with a bucket for Tufts, cutting the Middlebury lead to 39-35. After a jumper by Sharry at 19:00, Anderson knocked down a three for the Jumbos, making it a one possession game for Tufts with 18:37 left to play.

The Panthers answered again, using a 12-2 run over the next four minutes, expanding their lead to 53-40 with 14:12 left in the game. Five players scored during the run, highlighted by Kizel’s four points. The Panther lead hovered around 10 points for the next nine minutes of action as Tufts couldn’t dent the eight-point barrier until Firempong put in a lay-up with 4:25 left, knifing the deficit to 68-62.

Middlebury responded with a 10-2 run, capped by a shot-clock-beating three from Kizel from 25 feet out. After the three from Kizel at 2:05, the Panthers with a 78-64 lead, finally earned some breathing room down the stretch for the 82-69 win.

Five Panthers scored double-digits as Sharry collected a game-high 22 points, while Kizel and Lynch scored 16 apiece. Wolfin followed with 14 and a game-high six assists, as Sinnickson finished with 10 points off the bench. Lynch paced the Panthers with a game-best eight rebounds, as Sharry grabbed seven more boards for Middlebury.
• Men’s Basketball record: 12-0
• Up next: 1/13 @ Conn. – 8:00, 1/14 @ Wesleyan – 4:00