MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team won a pair of recent games to improve to 4-2. The Panthers, ranked No. 21 in this week’s NCAA Division III poll, will close their first semester with a 4 p.m. game at Skidmore on Saturday.
On this past Sunday, Hunter Merryman scored 23 points with 11 rebounds — both game-highs — to lead Middlebury to a 92-79 victory over host Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Panthers used a 16-7 run early in the second half to build a double-digit lead over the 0-4 Engineers. ??
Merryman made 10 of 14 shots from the field and also had five assists and a steal. Four other Panthers also scored at least 10 points, who shot 53.1 percent from the field and 20 of 23 from the free throw line.
Merryman had seven points in the early second-half surge, which extended the Panthers’ 44-41 halftime lead, while senior Joey Kizel added five. The Panthers never led by fewer than nine points from that point forward. ??
Kizel finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, a game-high seven assists and three steals. Freshman Matt St. Amour also scored 14 points, Jake Nidenberg added 12 points with five rebounds in only 12 minutes, and James Jensen returned to action from an injury and scored 10 points.
On Tuesday, the Panthers topped visiting Castleton, 90-80, rallying in the second half and closing the game with a 12-2 run to snap a 78-78 tie. The Spartans led at the break, 42-41, and by as many as six early in the second half before the Panthers went on a 9-0 run to take a 60-57 lead at 12:29.
But a trey by Spartan Logan White knotted the score at 78-78 at 3:04. The Panthers then scored on their next five possessions and held Castleton to two free throws down the stretch.
Five Panthers scored in double figures. Jensen tallied a career-high 22 points, 12 of them coming from the line on 15 attempts. Kizel added 19 points and four assists, while Merryman had 14 points, seven rebounds and four helpers. Jack Roberts blocked a career-best nine shots to go along with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Nate Bulluck added a career-high 10 points.
White led all scorers with 24 points for Castleton, and Chad Copeland chipped in 18.