Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals for the fourth consecutive year after a 61-41 quarterfinal victory over Connecticut College last Saturday at Pepin Gym. The Panthers advance to next weekend's semifinals at Williams College where they will meet Amherst at 4 p.m. The host school will face Trinity at 2 p.m., with the championship slated for noon on Sunday.
Middlebury held the Camels to .222 shooting from the floor (12-54) and 2-18 from the three point line. The Panthers received solid bench scoring from Joey Kizel and James Jensen, as the duo combined for 20 points on 8-12 shooting. Connnecticut held a small rebounding advantage (40-39), but grabbed 14 offensive boards to the Panthers seven.
With Middlebury's stalwart center Andrew Locke not in the lineup, the Camels attacked the hoop in the early going. Connecticut had a couple second-chance opportunities on their first possession, eventually grabbing a 4-1 lead on a pair of lay-ups, including one from Taylor Hanson at 17:50. That would be the only lead for the Camels as the Panthers went on a 7-0 spurt over the next 90 seconds, capped by a three by Nolan Thompson at 16:20.
A pair of free throws from Connecticut's Brian Mahoney shaved the deficit to 10-9 before Middlebury jumped ahead with a 9-0 run on 3-3 shooting from behind the arc. Joey Kizel's pair of threes bookended Jake Wolfin's triple for a 19-9 lead with 12:14 left in the half.
Manson Lopez connected on a three for the Camels at 11:24, but the Panthers responded with a methodical 11-4 run over the next seven minutes, building a 30-16 lead with 4:17 remaining before intermission. Matt Vadas hit the Camels final three of the game at 1:59, cutting the Panther advantage to 32-20 before Middlebury ended the half on a 4-0 burst and a 36-20 lead at the break.
Ryan Sharry opened the second half with a bucket for the Panthers prior to a 6-0 dash by Connecticut, setting the score at 38-26 with 17:42 to play. The Camels could not break the double-digit barrier over the next 10 minutes of play, as they watched the deficit balloon to 23 points on a three from Kizel with 7:55 left in the game. During that time span, Connecticut went 2-10 from the field, while committing five turnovers. The Panther lead hovered around the 20-point margin for the reminder of the game.
Kizel paced Middlebury with 13 points off the bench on 5-8 shooting, including 3-3 marksmanship from behind the arc, while Nolan Thompson added 11 and Wolfin chipped in 10 points, and game-highs with seven assists and four steals.
Hanson led the Connecticut team with a game-high 18 points, highlighted by 10-11 shooting from the free throw line.