Men's basketball downed by No. 3 Middlebury

Matt Hart '16
Matt Hart '16

Middlebury College's Nolan Thompson scored a game-high 18 points and the nationally ranked No. 3 Panthers pulled away in the second half for a 66-47 NESCAC victory over Hamilton College at Middlebury’s Pepin Gym on Jan. 18.

Middlebury (15-0 overall, 5-0 NESCAC) shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and committed just nine turnovers for the entire game. The Panthers have won seven consecutive games against the Continentals.

Thompson netted his 1,000th career point early in the game and finished 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Hunter Merryman added 13 points off the bench. Peter Lynch scored 10 points and grabbed seven boards, and Jack Roberts hauled in seven and blocked four shots. Jake Wolfin contributed eight points and dished out a game-high eight assists. Joey Kizel hit three shots from 3-point range for nine points.

Matt Hart '16 came off the bench and paced the Continentals with 14 points. Bradley Gifford '15 pulled down seven rebounds and Greg Newton '14 passed out a season-high five assists. Ken Click '13 and Ajani Santos '16 recorded two blocks apiece as Hamilton finished with six.

After Gifford knocked down a trifecta to put the Continentals up 3-2, Middlebury stormed to a 12-0 run and took the lead for good. Thompson and Kizel hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Lynch added a pair of layups and Merryman connected on another.

Hart scored Hamilton's next eight points. The Panthers took their largest lead of the half at 27-13 following a layup by Lynch with 7:06 left. Hans Schulte '13 scored the final points of the half for the Continentals on a layup with 56 seconds remaining and Middlebury went to the break with a 32-22 lead.

Thompson continued his hot shooting with a 3-pointer that opened the second half. Hamilton used a 7-0 run to get within single digits at 35-29 after five straight points by Peter Kazickas '15.

Hamilton pulled within five at 38-33 on a Hart jumper, and it was 40-35 after Joseph Lin '15 made a basket for the Continentals with 12:07 left. But the Panthers went on a 17-3 run that gave them a 57-38 lead with 4:35 remaining. Thompson scored five points while Lynch and Wolfin added four each during the spurt. Middlebury took its largest lead with 1:53 left when Merryman hit a shot from long range to put the Panthers up 64-44.

"Middlebury showed why they are third in the country by being very consistent in their execution on both ends and bringing a tremendous intensity to the game," said head coach Adam Stockwell. "We did not make good decisions nor did we play with the confidence needed to upset a nationally ranked team at their gym. We have to do a better job playing to our strengths and within our ability, much like Middlebury did.  It was easy to see why they win games."

The Panthers shot 45 percent (27-60) from the field, including 50 percent (8-16) from 3-point range. The Continentals shot 34.8 percent (16-46) from the floor. Middlebury held the advantage on the boards, 38-31.

Hamilton returns home for another NESCAC game against nationally ranked No. 10 Williams College on Sunday, Jan. 20.

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