MIDDLEBURY, VT — Trailing 80-79, James Wang’s last-second 21-footer clanked off the back iron, ending the hopes of a Williams upset of top-ranked Middlebury. The nation’s number one team improved to 18-0, setting a new school record for consecutive wins, and now owns a 20-game home winning streak. The 13th-ranked Ephs (15-5, 3-3) were the team that stopped the Panthers’ previous best winning streak at 17 nearly a year ago to the day, topping Middlebury 69-64 in Williamstown on January 29, 2011.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 1 Middlebury 80, No. 13 Williams 79|
|No. 2 UW-Whitewater 67, UW-Eau Claire 49|
|No. 3 Hope 104, Alma 77|
|No. 5 Virginia-Wesleyan 89, CNU 74|
|No. 6 MIT 80, Coast Guard 55|
|No. 7 Amherst 61, Trinity (Conn.) 30|
|No. 8 Cabrini 92, Centenary 71|
|No. 9 Franklin and Marshall 77, Haverford 57|
|No. 10 Mary Hardin-Baylor 90, Sul Ross State 56|
|Rowan 85, No. 14 William Paterson 62|
|No. 16 UW-Stevens Point 67, UW-Superior 58|
|No. 19 Wooster 88, Hiram 73|
|Denison 72, No. 23 Wabash 62|
|No. 24 R.I. College. 66, No. 18 Eastern Conn. 48|
|No. 25 Transylvania 76, Defiance 62|
The Panthers took an early 6-0 advantage on threes from Jake Wolfin and Ryan Sharry. Williams kept it close over the next few minutes before Middlebury took its biggest lead of the half on a short jumper by Dylan Sinnickson at 13:12, for a 16-9 Panther advantage. The Ephs responded with a 10-2 run over the next three-plus minutes, highlighted by eight points from Michael Mayer, including the go-ahead bucket at 9:30 for their first lead of the game at 19-18. The teams exchanged the lead four more times before Middlebury’s Peter Lynch broke a 33-33 deadlock on a lay-up with 1:03 left to play in the half. Lynch followed the bucket with a hoop and a free throw with 27 seconds to play, giving the Panthers a 38-33 lead at intermission.
Middlebury opened its first double-digit advantage in the second half when Joey Kizel capped a quick 11-5 spurt on a jumper for a 49-38 lead with 16:40 left to play. The lead bumped to a dozen two minutes later on a three from Kizel before the Ephs made their comeback.
Trailing 60-51, Williams went on a 7-2 run, highlighted by Talyor Epley’s three free throws after enticing Sharry into his fourth foul of the game on a three-point attempt at 8:05. As Sharry sat down, Epley sank all three shots, cutting the deficit to 62-58. With Middlebury’s top scorer on the bench, the Panthers held tough, even as Lynch collected his fourth foul at 6:57 and grabbed a seat on the sidelines with Sharry. Middlebury rebuilt its lead to 68-59 without key components of their front court on a three by Nolan Thompson at the 6:19 mark.
The Ephs roared back on a 10-4 run over the next three minutes. Mayer chipped in four points as James Klemm and Epley each hit from behind the arc, setting the score at 72-69 in favor of Middlebury with 3:05 left in the game.
Sharry and Lynch re-entered the game at 2:08 with Middlebury holding a 75-71 lead. A pair of Mayer free throws at 1:20 trimmed the Panther advantage to 75-72, before Lynch answered with a basket with 54 seconds off a feed from Wolfin. Nate Robinson answered for Williams with his own point-blank bucket with 38 seconds left.
The Ephs decided to foul down the stretch, but only committing four team fouls in the half, the Ephs needed to rack up three team fouls to force the Panthers to the line for one-and-one opportunities. With 27 seconds left, Williams earned its seventh team foul, sending Sharry to the stripe. Sharry knocked down both ends of the one-and-one for a 79-75 lead. Another Robinson lay-up cut the lead to 79-77 as the Ephs called their final time out with 16 seconds left. Forced again to foul, Williams sent Kizel to the line. After hitting the first free throw, Kizel’s second shot bounced out as Mayer quickly sent the ball to Wang who scored a lay-up with seven seconds left, cutting the Middlebury lead to 80-79. Kizel was found shortly after the in-bound pass, but missed the front end of his on-and-one attempt. Mayer collected the Kizel miss and sent the ball to Wang who dribbled and squared up for the open look on the right wing, but the potential 21-foot game-winner went long of the back of the rim as time expired.
For the game, the Panthers committing just five turnovers with 19 assists, as Williams notched 10 giveaways with a dozen helpers. Both team shot well from the floor with the Panthers holding a slight advantage, 54.2% to the Ephs 53.1%, but the Ephs held a decisive free throw advantage as the visitors made 19-24 charity tosses to Middlebury’s 9-11.
Four different Panthers hit double-figures as Sharry led with 19 on 7/10 shooting, while Wolfin added 16 with a game-high seven assists. Kizel and Lynch each netted 15, as Thompson grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Epley and Mayer were huge for Williams as the duo scored 49 of the Ephs’ 79 points. Epley’s game-high 26 points featured 5-8 marksmanship from behind the arc. Mayer’s 23 points off the bench included 5-7 shooting from the floor and 13/15 from the line. The reserve collected a double-double with a game-best 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.