February 21, 2011

The Middlebury College men’s basketball team advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals for the fourth consecutive year after a 61-41 quarterfinal victory over Connecticut College on Saturday at Pepin Gym. The Panthers advance to next weekend’s semifinals at Williams College where they will meet Amherst at 4:00 p.m. The host school will face Trinity at 2:00 p.m., with the championship slated for noon on Sunday.

Middlebury held the Camels to .222 shooting from the floor (12-54) and 2-18 from the three point line. The Panthers received solid bench scoring from first-year players Joey Kizel (Short Hills, N.J.)  and James Jensen (North White Plains, N.Y.), as the duo combined for 20 points on 8-12 shooting. Conn. College held a small rebounding advantage (40-39), but grabbed 14 offensive boards to the Panthers seven.

With Middlebury senior center Andrew Locke (Seattle, Wash.) not in the lineup, the Camels attacked the hoop in the early going. Conn. College had a couple second-chance opportunities on their first possession, eventually grabbing a 4-1 lead on a pair of lay-ups, including one from Taylor Hanson at 17:50. That would be the only lead for the Camels as the Panthers went on a 7-0 spurt over the next 90 seconds, capped by a three by sophomore Nolan Thompson (Akron, Ohio) at 16:20.

            A pair of free throws from Conn. College’s Brian Mahoney shaved the deficit to 10-9 before Middlebury jumped ahead with a 9-0 run on 3-3 shooting from behind the arc. Kizel’s pair of threes bookended sophomore Jake Wolfin’s (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) triple for a 19-9 lead with 12:14 left in the half.

            Manson Lopez connected on a three for the Camels at 11:24, but the Panthers responded with a methodical 11-4 run over the next seven minutes, building a 30-16 lead with 4:17 remaining before intermission. Matt Vadas hit the Camels final three of the game at 1:59, cutting the Panther advantage to 32-20 before Middlebury ended the half on a 4-0 burst and a 36-20 lead at the break.

            Junior Ryan Sharry (Braintree, Mass.) opened the second half with a bucket for the Panthers prior to a 6-0 dash by Conn. College, setting the score at 38-26 with 17:42 to play. The Camels could not break the double-digit barrier over the next 10 minutes of play, as they watched the deficit balloon to 23 points on a three from Kizel with 7:55 left in the game. During that time span, Conn. College went 2-10 from the field, while committing five turnovers. The Panther lead hovered around the 20-point margin for the reminder of the game.

            Kizel paced Middlebury with 13 points off the bench on 5-8 shooting, including 3-3 marksmanship from behind the arc, while Thompson added 11 and Wolfin chipped in 10 points, and game-highs with seven assists and four steals.

Earlier in the week, fourth-ranked Middlebury earned a 74-30 win over Green Mountain College (0-19) in Pepin Gym. Middlebury head coach Jeff Brown recorded his 200th victory at Middlebury, owning a career record of 200-149 in 14 seasons, and a 90-17 mark over the past four years. He has more wins at Middlebury than any other coach in the 94-year history of the men’s basketball program.

            With Middlebury resting all of its starters, the Panthers jumped out to a 20-5 lead on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor. Junior Winslow Hicks (San Francisco, Calif.) made his first four shots of the game, three of them coming from behind the arc for 11 points early on. The lead grew to as many as 17 three times, before Green Mountain went on a 6-0 spurt behind a three from Kenneth Williams and a three-point play from Peiton Woodall to make it a 29-18 game with 5:32 remaining. The Eagles came within nine before Middlebury closed the half on a 6-0 run to take a 39-24 lead into the intermission.

            Middlebury held Green Mountain to just 2 of 22 (.091) shooting from the floor in the second half, cruising to the 74-30 victory. The Panthers shot .509 from the floor as all 10 players who saw action in the game entered the scoring column.

            Sophomore Peter Lynch (Westford, Mass.) led the Panthers with a career-high 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the floor, grabbing four boards with three assists. Hicks finished with a career-best 13 points, while first-year player Albert Nascimento (Somerville, Mass.) also recorded a career-high with 10 points. Rookie Jack Roberts (Moylan, Pa.) earned a personal-best eight points and eight rebounds, to go along with three blocked shots. Jensen finished with a career-high eight points, also earning a season-best eight boards. Williams led Green Mountain with 13 points.

Middlebury went on a 20-0 run to pull away from a pesky Hamilton squad 69-56 in a Monday night match-up at Pepin Gym. The Panthers shot an impressive .552 in the second half to pull away from the Continentals (14-8) who committed 13 of their 19 turnovers in the second half.

            Locke got off to a quick start at both ends of the floor, dunking home two shots, while swatting away a pair of Continental attempts on the low block. With the Panthers leading 13-8 midway in the first half, Hamilton responded with a 9-0 burst, highlighted by seven points from Greg Newton, for a 17-13 lead with 6:37 left. Middlebury answered with a 7-0 spurt for a 20-17 lead with five minutes to play, as Wolfin netted five, including a go-ahead three at 5:32. The Continentals returned with an 8-0 counterpunch, capped by a lay-up by Newton with 1:01 left to play, and a 25-20 advantage.

            Middlebury started their decisive 20-point run in the final minute of the first half on consecutive three-pointers, first by Sharry with 47 seconds left, followed up by a leaner from Kizel as time expired in the half, as the Panthers took a 26-25 lead into the break.

            The intermission did not slow the Panthers down, as they opened the second half forcing six turnovers, while holding the Continentals to 0/4 shooting during a 14-0 burst, capping the 20-point run. Sharry was impressive, scoring 10 points, swiping three steals while grabbing a rebound during the span. By the 15:00 mark, Middlebury held a 40-25 advantage. Hamilton twice cut the Panther lead to nine points over the next eight minutes, but could not muster a run to threaten Middlebury down the stretch. Leading 52-43 with seven minutes to go, the Panthers hit seven of their final 10 shots from the floor. Wolfin was a perfect 5/5, including a three during that stretch, as the Middlebury lead ballooned to 69-52 with two minutes to go before Hamilton scored the final six points of the game.

Four Panthers scored double-digits, as Sharry led with 18, Wolfin followed with 16 on 7/10 shooting and a game-best seven assists, while senior Ryan Wholey (Pelham, N.H.) added 13 and Kizel finished with 10. Hamilton was led by Newton’s 17 points on 7/10 shooting, as Hans Schulte added a dozen.
• Men’s basketball record: 23-1
• Up next: 2/26 vs. Amherst @ Williams – 4:00 (NESCAC Semifinals), 2/27 – Champ. – 12