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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

Middlebury falls to Nichols College in second rebound of NCAA tournament

Thomas Zodda ’22.5 drives to the basket in Middlebury’s 76–51 win over Worcester State.
Thomas Zodda ’22.5 drives to the basket in Middlebury’s 76–51 win over Worcester State.

The men’s basketball team lost to Nichols College 73–66 in the second round of the NCAA Division III Championships this past Saturday. 

Middlebury hosted the first two rounds of the tournament at Pepin Gymnasium, after earning an at-large bid to the tournament. The team posted an impressive 20–6 season that led media outlets to rank them as a top 10 team in the country for the majority of the season.

Middlebury’s time in the tournament started fantastically. Middlebury beat Worcester State 76–51 in the round of 64 on Friday, March 3. The Lancers could not miss in the first half and entered the break up four points. After the halftime intermission, the script flipped, as the Panthers rained in a barrage of three pointers, tallying 50 points in the second half and leading to a resounding win. NESCAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Alex Sobel ’23, led Middlebury scorers with 18 points but got help from Noah Osher ’23.5 who poured in 17 points of his own. David Brennan ’24.5 was the unsung hero of the game, playing imposing defense and securing five offensive rebounds to help give the Panthers extra possessions on offense.

However, the Panthers’ success in the Division III “Big Dance” was short-lived. On Saturday, Middlebury matched up with Nichols College, who beat the University of Rochester a day prior. The Panthers controlled the majority of the first half, but a sloppy finish for Middlebury allowed

Nichols to creep back into the game and go into halftime with a two-point lead. Sobel was in foul trouble early in the first half, and Middlebury evidently missed his rim protection on defense, as several Nichols players scored at ease close to the hoop. The second half saw both teams neck-in-neck, but the Panthers struggled to make three pointers, which hampered their comeback attempts. 

Despite the bitter loss, the Panthers’ tenacity and grit on the court showed why they were one of the best teams in Division III all year. Fans attending the game could not help but admire the team’s energy and toughness. 

“Middlebury played well, and it was fun to be part of the energy the crowd brought,” said Cyrus Perkinson ’25, a student who attended the game.

As far as crowd energy, Captain Rudolph ’23.5 consistently brought endless passion for his beloved Panthers. He led the student section in several chants that supported the players and applauded great plays. 

“I was really happy to be at the games, and I could feel that when the crowd was into it, it motivated the players more,” Rudolph said. “What I like to do is get chants going and get people on their feet because it makes the entire atmosphere better for players and fans alike.”

Although the loss stung for the fans and the team, the electric atmosphere at the games bore witness to the passion for Middlebury sports around campus.