February 14, 2011

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team survived a scare from Trinity as the seventh-ranked Panthers held on for a 57-56 win over the Bantams (13-11, 4-5) in the NESCAC regular season finale for both teams. Middlebury (20-1, 8-1) earns the second-seed in the NESCAC Tournament and will host seventh-seeded Connecticut College on Saturday, February 19th. The win marks the third straight 20 win season for the Panthers after 19 victories in ’07-’08.

            Middlebury started all four seniors in the game with Jamal Davis (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Andrew Plumley (Burlington, Vt.), Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) and Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) getting the nod. The Panthers came out strong early, jumping to a 10-5 lead with five points from Locke and four from Wholey. A 7-0 run by the Bantams at the 10:54 mark, gave them a 16-14 advantage on a hoop from Ian Fels with 8:53 remaining. The Panthers led by as many as nine later in the half, before Trinity ended the first 20 minutes on a 5-0 spurt to cut the lead to 25-21 at the break. Middlebury turned the ball over 11 times in the first half (none in the second), with Trinity committing 10 of their own.

            Middlebury junior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) took over the game in the first five minutes of the second half, scoring nine points, including a three, to give the Panthers a 36-29 lead at the 15:47 mark. Trinity chipped away, tying the game at 42-42 after a pair of threes from Luke Macdougall and Eric Dean with 8:57 left to play. With the game tied at 51-51, the Panthers went on a quick 6-0 spurt, taking a 57-51 advantage with 2:12 left in the game.

            Macdougall hit a bucket for the Bantams to cut the lead to 57-55 with 52 seconds left to play. Following a timeout, the Panthers missed a shot with 13 seconds left, and then fouled Fells with just over two seconds remaining. Fells missed the first and then tried to intentionally miss the second shot, but banked it in. Middlebury called a timeout and was able to successfully inbound the ball and run out the clock to secure the win.

            Sharry led the team with 17 points and four blocks, while rookie Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.) netted 14 in the game. Locke added 12 points, 10 boards and four blocks, while sophomore Jake Wolfin (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) dished out seven assists.

Middlebury handed Amherst its first loss of the season as the Panthers earned a 69-61 win over the third-ranked Jeffs (21-1, 7-1) before a crowd of 1,150 in Pepin Gym on Friday night. The win was the fourth straight for the Panthers over the Jeffs, in the 63rd meeting between the schools.

            The game was a defensive battle, with the nation’s top field goal percentage defense holding Amherst to just .311 from the floor, as well as 26 points below their average. Middlebury shot .364 in the game, converting 4 of 15 from behind the arc and 25 of 32 from the free throw line. The Jeffs, who were playing just their sixth road game of the season, connected on 3 of 12 from long distance, while knocking down 20 of 25 from the charity stripe.

            The first half saw back and forth play, including seven different ties (13 in the game). Trailing by one with 3:32 remaining, sophomore Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) hit a two and then a three to give the Panthers a 30-26 lead at the 2:22 mark. Taylor Barrise knocked down 3-3 free throws late in the half to leave Middlebury with a 30-29 lead at the intermission.

            Amherst’s Willy Workman hit 3-3 from the line at the 14:53 mark of the second half to give the Jeffs their largest lead of the game at 43-39. Middlebury answered with a 6-0 run, with four free throws from Sharry and a pair from Locke to regain the lead at 45-43.

            Locke broke a 45-45 tie at the 10:56 mark, following a missed shot with a thunderous one-handed put-back. Locke and Sharry worked a give-and-go minutes later, with Locke throwing down another to give the Panthers a 51-49 advantage with 9:12 remaining.

            Middlebury led 56-54 with 5:00 remaining, but would not make another field goal in the game as Amherst sent them to the line for 18 free throws. The Panthers connected on 13 of the 18, leading by as many as nine on their way to the 69-61 win.

            Sharry scored a game-high 18 points, while pulling down a game-best 13 boards in the game to go along with a career-high five assists. Wolfin added 16 points, Thompson scored a dozen, while Locke had 11 points, seven boards and six blocks.
• Men’s basketball record: 20-1
• Up next: 2/14 vs. Hamilton – 7:00, 2/17 vs. Green Mountain – 7:00, 2/19 vs. Conn. College – 1:00 (NESCAC Quarterfinals)