Men's Basketball To Host NCAA Action - Watch Live! - Tickets Are SOLD OUT

March 6, 2009

The Middlebury men's basketball team will make its second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance after capturing its first NESCAC title. The Panthers drew a first-round bye and will host Bridgewater State, a 95-79 winner over St. Josephs, on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are sold out for the game.

Middlebury earned an automatic bid to the tournament after defeating Amherst 77-68 for its first NESCAC Championship. A year ago, the Panthers fell 56-43 at Rochester in a first-round game, as they were making their inaugural NCAA Tournament appearance.

With the NESCAC Championship game tied at 65 with 4:11 remaining, the Panther defense held Amherst scoreless for a 3:02 span, taking a 73-65 lead on a Ben Rudin jumper with 1:27 remaining. The Lord Jeffs answered with a three from David Waller, but went 0-3 in the final minute, as the Panthers hit four of six free throws to seal the win.

Rudin led the Panthers with 18 points and nine rebounds, setting a new NESCAC Tournament record with 77 points. Ryan Sharry tied a career-high with 15 points off the bench, along with six boards, while Aaron Smith scored 11 with nine off the glass.

Middlebury is in the midst of a record-breaking season that has seen the Panthers earn a school-record 24 wins against just three losses. The Panthers 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, who won just one league game their rookie season, currently sport 70 wins, more than any other class in the 92-year history of the program. Middlebury is 13-0 in Pepin Gym this season, with a 21-4 mark over the past two seasons. The Panthers average 630 fans/game at home this season, including a post-season average of 1,143 through three games in '09. Middlebury is currently ranked ninth in the latest D3Hoops.com national poll, their highest ranking in school history.

As a team, the Panthers have boasted some impressive defensive numbers overall. Middlebury leads the nation with a .368 field goal percentage defense, while also pacing all Division III schools with 7.1 blocked shots/game. Middlebury's winning percentage of .889 (24-3) is seventh-best among its competitors.

The team's offense this season has been sparked by Rudin, who was recently named the NESCAC Player of the Year. The senior point guard averaged 11.7 points/game in early January, and now leads the team with 16.7 points/game, including 21.2 points/contest in NESCAC games (25.9 ppg over the last seven games).

Rudin became the 15th player in school history to surpass the 1,000 point mark earlier this season, and now has 1,196 to place him seventh all-time at Middlebury. He also became the school's all-time leader in assists on January 24th, owning 453 career helpers with over 100 each season as a Panther. The former NESCAC rookie of the year is fourth in the NESCAC in scoring (16.7 ppg), while leading the league with 4.52 assists/game and ranking fourth with 1.44 thefts/game.

Aaron Smith (.527 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 8.3 points/contest. The senior has 622 career rebounds at Middlebury, shooting .572 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 7.9 points/game. He also leads the NESCAC with a .601 shooting percentage from the floor, while grabbing 5.9 boards/game (8th in NESCAC).

Junior Tim Edwards recently earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He continues his all-around impressive play this season for Middlebury, leading the team and the NESCAC with 2.26 steals/game. Edwards also averages 6.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.22 assists/game (4th in NESCAC).

Rudin's backcourt partner has been longtime teammate, Kyle Dudley. The two former Scarsdale HS teammates have both started all 27 games this season for the Panthers. Dudley is second on the squad this season with 10.1 points/game, while pacing the team with 58 three-point field goals made.

Rookie Ryan Sharry (.568 FG%) has provided a big boost off the bench, ranking fifth on the team with 7.9 points/game to go along with his 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks/game (5th in NESCAC). Sophomore Jamal Davis (5.1 pg, 4.2 rpg, .521 FG%), senior Matt Westman (3.8 ppg, 1.4 apg) and sophomores Ryan Wholey (3.5 ppg) and Ashton Coghlan (2.8 ppg) all see quality time off the bench.

NESCAC Coach of the Year 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 43-11 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 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
First-Round, Thursday, March 5th - Bridgwater
Bridgewater 95, St. Joseph's (Maine) 79

Second-Round, Saturday, March 7th - Middlebury College
Bridgewater (21-6) @ Middlebury - 7:00 p.m.

Four-team Sectionals, March 13-14, 2009 - sites TBA