Middlebury men’s basketball improves to 20-1

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team swept two NESCAC road games over the weekend before defeating visiting Lyndon on Tuesday to improve to 20-1, 6-1 in league play — and set some program landmarks in the process.
The league wins kept the Panthers’ chances for a first-place finish in NESCAC alive entering the final weekend of play, but they will need some help.
The Panthers, ranked No. 5 in this week’s NCAA Division III poll, will host Trinity (2-6, 8-13) on Friday at 6 p.m., and then No. 6 Amherst (20-2, 8-0) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, No. 7 Williams (20-2, 8-0 league, including a 1-point home win over the Panthers), will host Amherst on Friday and Trinity on Saturday.
Amherst — which defeated the Ephs in a game that did not count in the league standings — can win the title outright by sweeping Williams and Middlebury.
Middlebury can win the title outright by sweeping Trinity and Amherst, but only if Williams loses to Amherst and Trinity.
Williams can win the title outright by defeating Amherst and Trinity.
If Amherst defeats Williams, but loses to Middlebury while Williams defeats Trinity, the teams will end up in a three-way tie that cannot be broken by NESCAC tiebreakers except by coin flips — or in the words of Middlebury Sports Information Director Brad Nadeau, pulling teams’ names out of a hat.
On this past Friday, the Panthers built a 13-point halftime cushion and held off host Bowdoin, 72-61. The Polar Bears are 12-8, 3-5 NESCAC. Nolan Thompson led all players with 19 points for Middlebury.
Also scoring in double figures were Joey Kizel, who went 10-for-10 from the free throw line and finished with 14; James Jensen, who added 12; and Peter Lynch, who had 10. ??
Thompson scored all 11 of his first-half points in the final 6:33 of the opening period as Middlebury used a 10-2 run to take a 43-30 edge at halftime. An 8-0 Middlebury run, capped by a Thompson three-pointer, made it 55-40 with 9:33 to go.
On Saturday, the Panthers coasted at Colby, 85-62. Colby dropped to 6-15, 2-6 in the league. The Panthers shot 53.4 percent from the floor and forced 21 Colby turnovers.
The Panthers closed the first half on a 12-2 run in the final 3:40 to take a 48-33 lead into the intermission. Two threes from Kizel sparked the run.
The Mules cut the lead to 10 at 12:22 of the second half, but three minutes later a trey by Jake Wolfin made it 70-50, and the lead later grew to as many as 27.
Lynch led a balanced attack with 18 points on eight-for-11 shooting, while Jensen netted 13. Kizel scored 12 points, and Thompson added 10. Wolfin finished with nine assists.
On Tuesday, Wolfin became the 18th player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau when the Panthers (20-1) cruised to an 89-59 win over visiting Lyndon State (9-11). Wolfin scored seven points and now has 1,004 points in 108 games.
Middlebury also reached 20 wins for the fifth time ever, and for the fifth-straight season, with Tuesday’s victory.
Middlebury took an 11-0 lead behind six straight post-up points by Lynch to open the contest and never trailed. The Panthers took a 21-7 lead on a three from Wolfin, as Middlebury’s all-time assist leader scored his 1,000th point on a long distance bucket at 9:47.
Hunter Merryman led all scorers with 16 points off the bench. Thompson added 15 points and a game-best seven rebounds, while Lynch added a dozen points and six rebounds, and Kizel chipped in 10. Wolfin added seven assists and two steals.

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