Middlebury survived an overtime scare from Wesleyan, as the Panthers (13-0, 4-0) emerged with a 78-77 win over the Cardinals (7-8, 1-3) in a NESCAC contest in Pepin Gym. Third-ranked Middlebury returns to action on Tuesday night with a short road trip to in-state foe Castleton.
The game was slow-going early on, with Wesleyan holding a 2-0 lead as Middlebury missed its first five shots from the floor. With the game tied at 7-7, the Cardinals went on a 10-1 run to take a 17-8 lead at the 10:18 mark on a three from Bryan Galvin. Wesleyan’s lead stood at eight with 7:39 remaining in the half when the Panthers went on a 10-0 run. A three-point play by James Jensen capped the run as the Panthers held a 25-23 advantage. The Cardinals missed a three late in the half before Jake Wolfin connected from midcourt at the buzzer to give the Panthers a 30-29 lead at the intermission.
Middlebury extended its lead in the second half, using an 11-0 run to take a 46-35 lead on a hoop from Joey Kizel at the 13:37 mark. The Panthers led by a game-high 13 points with 5:55 remaining, before the Cardinals battled back. Trailing 64-53, Wesleyan’s Mike Callahan scored seven of 10 points during a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 64-62 with 1:25 remaining.
Kizel knocked down a pair of free throws on the other end, before Callaghan hit an 18-foot fade-away from the top of the key to make it a 66-64 game with 49 seconds remaining. Middlebury ran the play clock down before Nolan Thompson connected on a spin move to the lane to again make it a four-point contest with 19 seconds left to play. Sasha Brown knocked down two free throws for Wesleyan before Wolfin made 1-2 for the Panthers with 6.8 seconds remaining, giving his team a 69-66 lead. Middlebury led by three and quickly fouled, sending Brown to the line with 3.2 seconds left to play. After converting the first, Brown intentionally missed the second shot as the front-rimmed free throw bounced straight back to him. He quickly drove to the right and converted a lay-up at the buzzer to force the game into overtime tied at 69 apiece.
In the extra session, the teams exchanged buckets, with Wesleyan trailing 76-75 with 1:31 remaining. Thompson earned an offensive rebound and was fouled, converting a pair to give his team a 78-75 lead. Brown converted on the other end for Wesleyan to make it a one-point game, before a missed three by the Panthers left Wesleyan the ball down by one with 14 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Brown worked the ball and eventually tried to cut hard to the left wing 20 feet from the basket. Brown slightly lost his footing and was forced to toss up a desperation three that missed as time expired.
Middlebury was led by 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists on 6-9 shooting from Kizel. Thompson scored 18, Peter Lynch netted 12 with six boards, while Wolfin had 11 with four assists. Jack Roberts blocked three shots in the game.
Callaghan, who played much of the second half with four fouls, paced his team with 21 points. Brown finished with 20 and five assists, while Derick Beresford added a dozen. Glen Thomas chipped in with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.