Men's Basketball To Host NESCAC Championship Weekend - Ticket Info.!

February 23, 2009

The Middlebury College men's basketball team will host the 2009 NESCAC Championship in Pepin Gym. The Panthers will battle Bowdoin on Saturday, February 28th at 2:00 p.m., while rivals Williams and Amherst will meet at 4:00 p.m. The NESCAC Championship game is slated for Sunday, March 1st at noon, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney on the line. This will mark the first time the Panthers have hosted the championship weekend and their second straight appearance in the semifinals. All three games can be viewed live over the internet at www.d3cast.com.

Tickets are priced at $5/day for adults and $2/day for students. Tickets will go on sale at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Middlebury earned a spot in the semifinals after a 78-62 win over Connecticut College last Saturday in a quarterfinal match-up. The Camels led 5-4 early before Middlebury went on a tear, scoring 17 of the game's next 19 points to take a 21-7 lead with 14:15 left in the game. Ben Rudin scored eight straight points to open the run, including a three. Following a pair of Andrew Locke free throws, Kyle Dudley knocked down two threes before Rudin ended the run with a lay-up. Middlebury led by as many as 27 points in the game before settling for a 78-62 victory. Rudin ended the day tying a career-high with a game-high 29 points on 10 of 21 shooting, to go along with six boards and five assists. Locke scored 14 points, with seven rebounds and four blocks on 6-7 shooting from the floor.

Middlebury is in the midst of a record-breaking season that has seen the Panthers earn a school-record 22 wins against just three losses. Middlebury also boasted a school-best 17-game winning streak from December 2nd through February 13th, with the streak snapped with a loss to Amherst on February 14th. The set-back was the first NESCAC road loss for the Panthers since '06-'07, an impressive streak of 10 games. Middlebury boasted an 8-1 record in NESCAC play in '09, claiming the regular season title for the first time in school history. The Panther seniors currently sport 68 wins, more than any other class in the 92-year history of the program. Middlebury is 11-0 in Pepin Gym this season, with a 19-4 mark over the past two seasons. The Panthers average 527 fans/game at home this season, including a crowd of 1,031 last weekend in the quarterfinal round.

As a team, the Panthers have boasted some impressive defensive numbers overall. Middlebury leads the nation with a .369 field goal percentage defense, while also pacing all Division III schools with 7.0 blocked shots/game. Middlebury's winning percentage of .880 (22-3) is ninth-best among its competitors.

The team's offense this season has been sparked by Rudin, who has enjoyed an amazing second semester. The senior point guard averaged 11.7 points/game in early January, and now leads the team with 16.2 points/game, including 21.2 points/contest in NESCAC games (25.6 ppg over the last five games).

Rudin became the 15th player in school history to surpass the 1,000 point mark earlier this season, and now has 1,143 to place him seventh all-time at Middlebury. He also became the school's all-time leader in assists on January 24th, owning 444 career helpers with over 100 each season as a Panther. The former NESCAC rookie of the year is fifth in the NESCAC in scoring, while leading the league with 4.52 assists/game and ranking third with 1.52 thefts/game.

Aaron Smith (.515 FG%) has returned to form after struggling with an early season injury. Smith paces the team and is fourth in the league with 7.2 boards/game, while netting 8.2 points/contest. The senior has 605 career rebounds at Middlebury, shooting .570 from the floor over his four seasons.

Joining Smith up front has been Locke, a 6-10 sophomore center who has become a force in the middle for the Panthers. Locke is fourth in the nation with 3.4 blocks/game, while scoring 8.3 points/game. He also leads the NESCAC with a .626 shooting percentage from the floor, while grabbing 6.0 boards/game (8th in NESCAC).

Junior Tim Edwards continues his all-around impressive play this season for Middlebury, leading the team and the NESCAC with 2.32 steals/game. Edwards also averages 6.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.36 assists/game (T3rd in NESCAC).

Rudin's backcourt partner has been longtime teammate, Dudley. The two former Scarsdale HS teammates have both started all 25 games this season for the Panthers. Dudley is second on the squad this season with 10.2 points/game, while pacing the team with 57 three-point field goals made.

Rookie Ryan Sharry (.579 FG%) has provided a big boost off the bench, ranking fifth on the team with 7.5 points/game to go along with his 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks/game (5th in NESCAC). Sophomore Jamal Davis (5.2 pg, 4.3 rpg, .511 FG%), senior Matt Westman (4.0 ppg, 1.3 apg) and sophomores Ryan Wholey (3.4 ppg) and Ashton Coghlan (2.9 ppg) all see quality time off the bench.

Head Coach Jeff Brown is now in his 12th year at the helm of the Panthers, having previously served as the Bates bench boss for three seasons. A year ago, he led the team to a 19-win season and its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Brown is now 41-11 over the past two seasons.

A 1982 graduate of the University of Vermont, Brown scored more than 1,000 points and earned induction into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame during his Catamount basketball career. He is 10th on the all-time scoring list (1,336 points), second in steals (170), seventh in assists (428), eighth in field goals made (526), and ninth in free throws made (284). While playing at UVM, Brown averaged 12.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. He spent three years as the top assistant basketball coach at Manhattan College in New York, before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach for nine years (1985-94).

2009 NESCAC Men's Basketball Tournament
Quarterfinals, Saturday, February 21st
#1 Middlebury 78, #8 Conn. College 62
#2 Amherst 80, #7 Trinity 66
#3 Williams 87, #6 Bates 78
#5 Bowdoin 66, #4 Colby 54

Semifinals - Saturday, February 28th at Middlebury
#1 Middlebury (22-3) vs. #5 Bowdoin (17-8) - 2:00 p.m.
#2 Amherst (20-5) vs. #3 Williams (17-8) - 4:00 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, March 1st at Middlebury
Tip-off - 12:00 p.m.