SALEM, Va. — The Middlebury College men’s basketball team has earned a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament’s elite eight for the second time in the last three seasons. The Panthers (25-3) will travel to Salem, Va., to take on 27-3 North Central (Ill.) in an NCAA quarterfinal game on Friday at 8 p.m.
On Saturday at 8:30 p.m., the winner of the Middlebury-North Central game is set to meet the winner of another Friday quarterfinal at the Salem Civic Center, between Amherst (27-2) and Cabrini (25-5).
The winner of the semifinal will advance to the NCAA championship game on April 7 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
The other side of this weekend’s bracket in Salem pits St. Thomas (29-1) vs. Williams (26-4) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (25-5) vs. St. Mary’s (27-3) on Friday. The winners of those games will meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and whoever emerges from that semifinal will also head to Atlanta, where the final will be played in conjunction with the NCAA D-I Final Four.
On this past Saturday, seniors Jake Wolfin and Nolan Thompson each scored 20 points, and junior Joey Kizel hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds left to lead the Panthers to a 73-72 win over Ithaca in an NCAA sweet 16 game before a sold-out crowd in Pepin Gym.
Kizel finished with 13 points and a team-best five assists, while junior James Jensen chipped in nine points and five rebounds off the bench. Senior Peter Lynch scored eight points with six boards and five assists. Middlebury finished the game shooting 47.9 percent from the floor, while connecting on 14 of 25 shots (.560) from long range.
Middlebury is making its sixth consecutive NCAA appearance, having earned an at-large bid after falling in the NESCAC semifinals. Middlebury is 9-5 in NCAA play after earning its first bid in 2008.
The Panthers advanced to the second round in 2009; hosted a regional in 2010, losing in the final; advanced to the final four in 2011 and lost to eventual champion St. Thomas in the semifinals; and in 2012, hosted and won a regional before falling in the round of 16 in a sectional they hosted on campus.
Jeff Brown is now in his 16th year coaching the Panthers and has a record of 233-153, 146-25 in the past six years. His teams won NESCAC championships in 2009 and 2011, and Brown was named the NESCAC Coach of the Year in 2009, 2011 and 2012.