Middlebury (22-2) advanced to the NESCAC semifinals for the sixth straight season following a 61-49 win over Wesleyan (12-13) at Pepin Gym in a conference quarterfinal match-up. The third-seeded Panthers will play second-seeded Williams, an 88-79 winner over Bates, at Amherst on Saturday, February 23, as the hosts face Tufts.
In a slow moving first half, Middlebury built an early 7-2 lead capped by an easy lay-up by Jack Roberts on a great assist from Jake Wolfin at 15:20. The Cardinals cut the lead to 8-7 on a three from Brian Bartner at 12:05 before Joey Kizel notched his own triple a minute later getting the Panthers into double-digits with an 11-7 lead with 11:01 remaining. Despite shooting 30.8% from the field, the Cardinals kept pace with Middlebury, as Glen Thomas was 4-4 from the field adding nine rebounds including five on the offensive glass as Middlebury took a 24-21 lead into intermission. Wesleyan's Sasha Brown, the story of the 78-77 Middlebury overtime win earlier this year, was held scoreless in the first half on 0-6 shooting.
Middlebury opened the second half with a 12-4 run, as Wolfin had six points, combining a traditional three-point play with a long rang three during the run. Leading 36-24 with 14:47 left to play, both team exchanged five points apiece before Wesleyan pieced together a five-point counter on a Chris Tugman bucket and a three from Mike Callaghan, cutting the deficit to 41-35 with 10:46 remaining, forcing a Panther time-out.
That was as close as the Cardinals would get as Middlebury responded with an 8-2 run after the break in the action as Kizel and Wolfin each hit threes, giving the Panthers a 49-37 lead at 6:56. The only two points for Wesleyan during that Middlebury run were a pair of free throws from Brown, his first points of the game at 8:10.
The Panthers maintained a double-digit lead during the waning minutes, bulging to 61-44 on two free throws from Peter Lynch, before Wesleyan scored the final five points of the game. The Panthers shot a torrid 57.1% in the second half (12-21), holding the visitors to a 17-52 shooting for the game and 9-26 in the second half.
Kizel led all scorers with 20 points on 7-11 shooting, including 3-5 from downtown. Wolfin, Lynch and Nolan Thompson each had a dozen points as Lynch added a team-best eight rebounds.
Callaghan paced Wesleyan with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Thomas had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including eight offensive caroms. The Cardinals' starting backcourt of Brown and Derick Beresford shot a combined 2-21 from the field as the duo faced a combination of man and zone defensive packages from the trio of Middlebury guards, Wolfin, Thompson and Kizel during the game.
Courtesy: Middlebury Athletic Department
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