Middlebury Tops Williams 73-61 in NESCAC First Round

Courtesy Middlebury Athletic Communications

Box Score

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury went 18-20 from the free throw line over the final six minutes of play, keeping visiting Williams at bay for a 73-61 NESCAC quarterfinal win at Pepin Gym.

For the game, Middlebury held the Ephs to 34% shooting from the field and 4-29 from behind the arc, while the Panthers hit 6-14 from three and made 27-31 free throw attempts during the game.

Williams finishes the season with a 17-8 mark, dropping three of its last four contests. Middlebury (23-2) now owns a 23-game home winning streak and advances to the NESCAC semifinals for the fifth straight year taking on Wesleyan at Amherst next weekend as the host school faces Bates.

The Ephs took a 10-7 lead at the 12:52 mark of the first half on a bucket from Michael Mayer. The Panthers answered with a 12-0 run, leaving them with a 19-10 advantage with 5:13 remaining in the first half. Ryan Sharry sparked the run with seven points, including a three at the 9:23 mark. Williams cut the lead on a three from James Klemm to make it 21-16, with Middlebury's Nolan Thompson knocking down one of his own to make it a 24-16 game with 3:26 left to play. Another three followed on the other end of the court as Hayden Rooke-Ley made it a five-point game before Middlebury answered with a 6-0 spurt, capped by a three from Jake Wolfin with just 48 seconds remaining.

After a pair of free throws by Middlebury's Peter Lynch with just under three seconds left, Rooke-Ley dribbled past half court and nailed a line-drive 35-footer at the buzzer to cut the Panther advantage to 32-24 heading into the break. Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half, with the Ephs shooting 35.5 %, while going 3-16 (18.8 %) from behind the arc. Middlebury connected on 35.5 % of its shots from the field, going 5-10 from long range.

Jake Wolfin opened the second half with a three on a kick-out assist by Sharry for the Panthers' first double-digit lead at 35-24. Sharry would score the next 10 points for Middlebury, the first point on a free-throw during an impressive 9-1 run by the Ephs that was capped by a three from James Wang at 15-23. Sharry followed, put the Panthers on his back during a 7-2 burst, going 2-2 from the field and 3-3 from the line for a 45-37 Middlebury advantage with 13:12 left. After a Nate Robinson basket, Sharry ended his 10-point run on a lay-up at 12:26, giving the Panthers a 47-39 lead.

Williams went cold from the floor over the next 6:03 of action, missing five of six from the floor, while committing a pair of turnovers. The Ephs kept the game close hitting 4-5 from the line as Middlebury committed three turnovers during the span adding three baskets on eight shots from the field.

Talyor Epley brought Williams within six on his basket at 6:23. On the ensuing Panthers posseesion, Joey Kizel was fouled by the Ephs at 6:01, starting a free throw shooting parade for the Panthers as they hit 18-20 from the charity stripe for the rest of the game. The Panthers attempted just three shots from the field during the span, with the lone basket from Sharry at 3:25 giving Middlebury a 59-49 lead. During the free throw show, Wolfin was 6-8, Kizel was 6-6 and Sharry was 2-2.

With Middlebury nearly perfect from the line each time down the court, Williams hit 5-10 from the field after the Sharry basket. The Ephs were a perfect 5-5 on point-blank lay-ups, but 0-5 from behind the arc. The Panthers advantage bulged to a baker's dozen twice in the final minute.

Sharry put up a busy box score, scoring a game-high 22 points, hitting 7-9 free throws, a team best seven rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals. Wolfin added 16 points and six caroms, while Kizel added 14 points, going 8-8 from the line.

Williams was paced by Robertson's 19 points over 38 minutes of play, as Mayer added 14 points off the bench and Rooke-Ley collected 10 points and a game-best eight rebounds.