Men's Basketball Suffers a Tough 68-66 Loss at Middlebury in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Tournament

Men's Basketball Suffers a Tough 68-66 Loss at Middlebury in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Tournament

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - The Curry College men's basketball team lost to Middlebury in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Middlebury defeated the Colonels 68-66 and will advance to the second round next week.

Neither team showed much offense early, with the Panthers holding an 11-5 lead on a three from Hunter Merryman at the 13:50 mark of the first half. The lead grew to 11 with 9:35 remaining before a layup from A.J. Stephens brought Curry within nine at 18-9. Nate Bulluck answered for the Panthers before Sedale Jones connected from behind the arc to bring the Colonels' deficit to 20-12 with 7:42 remaining. Leading by six, Middlebury closed the half on a 7-1 run to take a 31-19 lead into the intermission. Peter Lynch scored four during the run with three from James Jensen. Curry made just 7-27 (.259) shots from the floor in the first half, while the Panthers shot 40.7%.

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Trailing 37-28 with 14:07 remaining in the second half, Curry went on an 8-0 run behind three-point plays from Stephens and Antonio Jones to make it a 37-36 game 61 seconds later. The Colonels had a chance to take their first lead of the game with 10:46 remaining, but a miss by A. Jones turned into a three-point play from Kizel on the other end to put the Panthers ahead, 45-41.

Curry came within one twice more before a three from Nolan Thompson put Middlebury up 56-50 with 3:48 left. Stephens continued his impressive play inside for Curry, as the 6-5, 255-pounder brought his team back by answering on the other end of the floor.

Thompson connected with another big three from the corner at the 2:18 mark, putting the Panthers ahead 61-54. The Colonels did not go away, as Lambros Papalambros countered with a three to bring his team within four. Following a made free throw, Kizel scored on a nifty left-handed reverse lay-up the gave Middlebury a 63-58 advantage with 1:01 left to play.

S. Jones connected from behind the arc with 33 seconds remaining to make it a 63-61 game. Kizel was fouled and knocked down a pair before Papalambros made it a two-point game with 16 ticks remaining. Thompson made 1-2 on the other end, with Curry having one last chance to tie the game with 11 seconds left. S. Jonses front-rimmed a three from the right side with the Panthers earning the team rebound. Lynch knocked down a pair of free throws before S. Jones connected from behind midcourt at the buzzer to make it a 68-66 final.

Lynch led the Panthers with 17 points on 5-10 shooting from the field and 7-8 from the line, while Kizel and Thompson each netted a baker's dozen. James Jensen chipped in nine points off the bench, going 3-4 from the field and the charity stripe. Jake Wolfin had a game-high six assists and team-high nine rebounds, as Kizel chipped in five helpers. Jake Roberts finished with a game-best five blocks in 25 minutes of action to go along with six boards. Middlebury finished the day shooting .431 from the field, but connected on just 3-18 (.167) shots from long distance.

Stephens was a force on the low block, earning a double-double with game-highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. S. Jones, Curry's leading scorer averaging over 22 points, ended the game with 18 points after a four-point first half. Papalambros chipped in 11, including a pair of threes, as the Colonels connected on 8-16 from downtown. (Game recap courtesy of Middlebury Sports Information)