Men's Basketball Streak Comes To An End - Panthers Earn Top Seed

February 14, 2009

The Middlebury men's basketball team saw its winning streak come to an end as the Panthers dropped their final game of the regular season by a score of 71-64 at Amherst. Middlebury ends the regular season at 21-3, 9-1 in NESCAC play, capturing the top seed for the upcoming NESCAC Tournament for the first time in school history. The loss snaps a school-record 17-game winning streak for the Panthers, as well as a 10-game NESCAC road streak that dates back to '06'-07. Middlebury will host Connecticut College in a NESCAC Quarterfinal game on Saturday, February 21st at 3:00 p.m.

Middlebury took a quick 6-2 lead, before Glenn Wong put home a three from the top of the key for Amherst. After five minutes of play, the Panthers led by just two points at 13-11. The Lord Jeffs remained down by a single score until a pair of Ryan Wholey free throws put the Panthers up 19-15 with 11:52 to play.

Brian Baskauskas dropped home a jumper from the baseline, before Amherst rookie David Waller made a pair of free throws to tie the game 19-19 with 10:36 to go in the frame. Jeff Holmes looked smooth on a baseline jumper with seven and a half minutes remaining, tying the game at 25-apiece.

After a Tim Edwards triple for the Panthers, Wong hit a deep three from the left side to keep Amherst on par. Conor Meehan found Taylor Barrise on a back-door cut to put Amherst up 32-30. With three minutes remaining, Kurt Bennett put home a short jumper, before Barrise hit a three to leave Amherst up 37-34.

Amherst was unable to open up a lead, as Middlebury's Ben Rudin continued to score in the final minutes of the first half. A deep Baskauskas three rimmed out to end the half with Middlebury up 39-37. At the break, Rudin led all players with 15 points, while Baskauskas paced the Jeffs with 10 points and four rebounds.

Meehan scored on back-to-back lay-ups to help Amherst open up a 45-40 lead less than five minutes into the second half. The lead grew to eight points just seconds later as Meehan found Baskauskas for a transition three from the left side, forcing Middlebury to call timeout. After a Panther score, Bradley drained a deep three to put Amherst up 51-42.

Middlebury responded, scoring on consecutive and-one opportunities, cutting the gap to 54-52 with 9:17 to play. Amherst called timeout, but on the ensuing possession was whistled for a shot clock violation. Before the Panthers could score again, Baskauskas scored to bring his total to 18 points, and put Amherst back up four.

With two minutes to play, Amherst nearly forced a shot clock violation from Middlebury, and then took possession on a scramble as the buzzer went. With the Jeffs up seven points, Rudin hit a three to close to 66-62 with 1:30 to play.

Neither team scored until Middlebury fouled Waller with 55.5 seconds to play, as the first-year made 1-of-2 at the line. Rudin scored with 44.2 left for the Panthers, leaving Amherst up just three points with possession. Middlebury took a steal on the inbound, but Rudin's bid in the lane rimmed out. Baskauskas took the rebound and found Bradley in the backcourt for a timeout with 30.6 to play.

With the shot-clock off, Middlebury was forced to foul Meehan, who knocked down both free throws. Baskauskas blocked Middlebury's bid on the ensuing trip, leaving Waller at the line to put the Jeffs up 71-64 with 11 seconds left. The free throws were the final points of the game, as Amherst picked up the win.

In the end, Baskauskas finished with 18 points and 12 boards for a double-double, while Meehan and Wong added a combined 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Rudin led all scorers with a career-high 29 points and seven rebounds for Middlebury, while Locke added 11 and Aaron Smith had nine boards.