Men's Basketball Suffers First Loss Of The Season

January 31, 2012

Top-ranked Middebury lost its first game of the season, as the Panthers (18-1) fell 77-76 at Keene State before a sold-out crowd at Spaulding Gymnasium on Tuesday night. The Owls (15-4), who have won a season-high six straight games, handed Middlebury its first loss since falling to St. Thomas in the NCAA Final Four last March.

With 1:12 to play, junior center Rashad Wright hit a turnaround jumper in the paint to give the Owls a 77-76 lead. After a pair of Middlebury turnovers, KSC inbounded the ball with 11 seconds to play to junior point-guard Ryan Martin. Martin, who was last year's statistical champion for free-throws shooting 97.1%, missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 giving the Panthers another chance.

Middlebury sophomore guard Joey Kizel drove into the paint for what would have been the game-winning layup, but Wright was there to deny the shot, with his second block of the game.

On the inbounds play, the Panthers still had 0.8 seconds left, as leading scorer Ryan Sharry found himself with a look at a three, but the ball clanged off the backboard and the rim, giving KSC the win.

Most of the contest was back-and-forth, but Middlebury jumped out to a 10-point lead with 6:21 to play on a three-ball from Kizel, making it 72-62. After a KSC timeout, the Owls finished the contest on a 15-5 run, to pull out the victory.

Kizel and Sharry each reached double-figures for the Panthers, with 24 and 18 points respectively. It was the tale of two-halves for them, as Sharry started the game with 16 points and only finished with two in the second half. Kizel had six in the first half, and had 18 in the second, including shooting a perfect 4-4 from beyond the arc.

Sharry and junior forward Peter Lynch each had a game-high 10 rebounds.

Four players reached double-figures for the Owls, led by Wright with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Junior guard Anthony Mariano had a strong night with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Martin and senior forward Ollie Hunter each finished with 11 points in the victory.

Also hurting the Owls chances, KSC shot 50% from the free throw line (13-0f-26) while the Panthers shot a blistering 88% (15-of-17). The Panthers turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 30 Keene State points. Middlebury was 9-13 (.692) from behind the arc, shooting .491 from the floor.

The Owls return to action Thursday night, as they will face Saint Joseph's College of Vermont at 7 p.m., while Middlebury will square off against NESCAC rival Bowdoin on Friday night at 8 p.m.