Top-Ranked Panthers Hold Off Feisty Polar Bears in Middlebury

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 MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Top-ranked Middlebury held off a late charge by Bowdoin (14-6, 3-4), as the Panthers picked up a 79-76 win over the Polar Bears in Pepin Gym. Middlebury (19-1, 7-0) extends its home court streak to 21 games with the victory.

Ryan O'Connell went 9-12 from the floor and 5-5 from behind the arc for 23 points to lead Bowdoin. Will Hanley finished the game with 22 points and four assists, while Andrew Madlinger chipped in with eight.

Middlebury came out strong, taking a 12-4 lead on three from Joey Kizel at the 14:19 mark. After missing his first six shots, Bowdoin leading scorer Will Hanley connected with 11:40 remaining to make it a 14-11 contest. The Panthers later led 19-12 before a 6-0 spurt brought the Polar Bears within a point at 19-18 on a hoop from Tom Carter at the 6:18 mark. Middlebury led by as many as eight before heading into the intermission with a 30-24 lead.

The Panthers extended their lead in the second half, going up 46-36 on a three from Ryan Sharry at the 14:46 mark. Bowdoin began to chip away, cutting the margin to three on a long ball from Justin Nowell and a hoop from Will Hanley with 8:53 left. Middlebury led by as many as seven before the Polar Bears battled back once again, cutting the advantage to 61-60 on a three from Andrew Madlinger with 4:50 remaining.

Middlebury took a six-point lead on a bucket from Jack Roberts with 2:12 left, but Bowdoin's Ryan O'Connell later hit a deep three from the right wing to make it a 69-68 game with 1:26 remaining.

Following a Bowdoin timeout, Joey Kizel answered with a lay-up on the other end of the floor to put the Panthers up 71-68. Keegan Pieri tried to answer with a 22-footer from the top of the key for Bowdoin, but the shot caromed out, forcing the Polar Bears to foul down the stretch.

Middlebury hit seven straight free throws in the final 45 seconds, going 8-10 in that span. Bowdoin countered with a pair of threes from Ryan O'Connell, including one with 1.5 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game. Jake Wolfin knocked down the first of two free throws, with a desperation 90-footer by Bowdoin missing the mark as time expired.

Both teams shot the lights out in the second half, with Bowdoin clicking at .656 and the Panthers shooting .615. The Polar Bears connected on 8-15 (.533) from behind the arc, with Middlebury hitting 7-17 (.412). The Panthers outscored the Polar Bears 18-6 from the charity stripe.

Kizel scored a career-high 26 points to pace Middlebury, going 8-13 from the floor. Sharry scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds and three blocks. Nolan Thompson and Peter Lynch each scored eight for the Panthers, with Wolfin dishing out six assists.