WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Williams College got 15 points and 11 rebounds from senior captain Troy Whittington and knocked Middlebury College (16-1) from the ranks of the undefeated, 69-64, in Chandler Gym this afternoon and claimed first place in NESCAC.
Middlebury was led by first year guard Joey Kizel who scored 16 points. Jake Wolfin contributed 13 and Jamal Davis 10 for the Panthers.
Whittington's 11 rebounds was tops in the game and one better than Middlebury's Andrew Locke who collected 10.
Williams opened up a 39-30 lead at the half, but Middlebury opened the second session with a 10-0 run and took a 40-39 lead.
With 13:38 left in the contest a three by Jake Wolfin from in front of the Panthers' bench gave Middlebury a three-point lead 46-43, but the Ephs Brian Emerson matched that 3-pointer 19 seconds later and the contest was tied for the seventh time on the day.
Williams built a 4-point lead at 11:54, 51-47, when Nate Robertson converted a three-point play.
Middlebury battled back to tie the contest at 51 on a jumper in the paint by Jamal Davis and then it was a stare down until 8:10 remained and Troy Whittington broke the 11th and final tie of the contest with a jumper over Locke, giving Williams a 58-56 lead that they would not relinquish.
Whittingon helped the Ephs get the lead up to seven with 5:11 left after he scored again and then freed Klemm for a three pointer with a pick.
Middlebury refused to back down and a jumper by Joey Kizel with just under three minutes to play cut the Eph lead to one, 63-62.
A Nate Robertson free throw gave Williams a two-point lead. With 1:16 left Middlebury jumped the pick set by Whittington to pressure the James Wang and he made the Panthers pay. Wang hit Whittington all alone in the paint and he threw down an impressive one-handed dunk to delight the Eph faithful. Wiliams was on top 66-62.
Thirteen seconds later Kizel stepped to the foul line and hit both free throws and narrowed the Williams lead to two, 66-64.
Middlebury corralled a missed jumper by the Ephs James Wang and called timeout with 24.1 left, down 66-64. After the Middlebury timeout Brian Emerson hacked Andrew Locke down low. The Panther senior had a chance to tie the contest with two free throws with 14 seconds remaining.
Locke failed to convert on both shots and his second was rebounded by James Klemm who was immediately fouled. Klemm, 21 of 22 from the line entering the contest clamly swished both free throws to boost the Eph lead back to four 68-64.
Middlebury's Joey Kizel then had the ball stripped as he went down the lane and the Ephs Harlan Dodson slid along the floor to caputure the ball, calling timeout before he went out of bounds with 4 seconds left.
Whittington was fouled by Wolfin on the inbounds pass and he went to the line for two. He made the first and missed the second and then Harlan Dodson picked off a long Middlebury pass as time expired.
"We have a lot of respect for Middlebury," noted Eph head coach Mike Maker. "They are a very well-coached, physical basketball team and we feel that we matched that today, particularly on the inside. We continue to grow as a basketball team."
Williams hit on 52% of their field goals (26-50) on the day, while holding Middlebury to 40% shooting (23-58). The Panthers won the battle of the boards 36-31.
Next weekend NESCAC travel partners Williams and Middlebury will head to Maine where Williams will play Bowdoin on Friday night and Colby on Saturday afternoon, while Middlebury will play the same teams in reverse order.
GAME NOTES: Williams and Middlebury have won the last two NESCAC titles with the Panthers taking the crown in 2009 and the Ephs prevailing in 2010.
Middlebury has won three of the last six games in the series, but Williams has won 17 of the last 20 and holds a decisive all-time series lead, 76-21.
Middlebury head coach Jeff Brown is in his 14th year and is 3-15 vs. Williams, while the Ephs Mike Maker is 3-1 vs. the Panthers.
The Panthers entered the game as the top ranked defensive team in NESCAC holding opponents to 58.1 points a game this year. Middlebury has allowed the opposition to score on 35% of field goal attempts and just 29% of three point attempts.
Additionally, the Panthers sport a +10.9 advantage per game on the glass and they have blocked 115 shots (7.7).
Williams is third in NESCAC defense allowing 60.5 points a game, while holding the opposition to 36% success from the floor and 30% from beyond the arc. On the glass the Ephs hold an advantage of +7.9.
Ryan Sharry a 6-8 junior who leads Middlebury in scoring (14.0) and on the boards (10.5), was unable to play due to injury. Senior Jamal Davis started in Sharry's place.
The Ephs lone loss of the year came at Amherst in a non-NESCAC game when Whittington was out with an injury. The Ephs went 3-1 without Whittington on the floor.