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Men’s Basketball Looks to Defend NESCAC Title

Photo by Jonas Powell '18
Photo by Jonas Powell '18


MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The reigning NESCAC Champions and fifth-seeded Wesleyan University men's basketball team will begin its quest to defend its conference title Saturday, Feb. 20 when the Cardinals square off against fourth-seeded Middlebury in quarterfinal action. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Middlebury, Vt.

A live webcast broadcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) will be available HERE.

Tickets for Saturday's quarterfinal game are $5 for adults and $2 for students, and are available for purchase HERE.

The Panthers defeated Wesleyan in the lone matchup of the regular season, 86-76 on Friday, Jan. 8 in Middletown, Conn. Despite trailing 37-30 at halftime, Middlebury rallied with a strong second half performance to earn the victory. Five different players scored in double-figures for the visitors as Matt St. Amour led the team with 18 points. The Cardinals had four players in double-figures and were led by senior B.J. Davis' 18.

Wesleyan is 6-8 in nine NESCAC Championship appearances, and are coming off its first league title in program history. The Cardinals, ranked No. 6 in the tournament, defeated No. 3 Bates (66-59) and No. 1 Trinity (55-52) before claiming a thrilling 74-70 overtime win over No. 5 Amherst to become the highest seed to win the championship in the 15-year history of the tournament.

Wesleyan has lost two straight entering Saturday's contest, but boast an 18-6 overall record (6-4 away mark) and 5-5 league ledger. The Cardinals pride themselves on strong defensive play and are one of the top teams in the country in defensive field-goal percentage (38.1) and total rebounds (1079), ranking third and sixth in Division III, respectively. Davis leads the team in scoring, and ranks fifth in the conference, averaging 16.7 points per game. Earlier this season, he became the 22nd player in program history to reach the 1,000 point milestone. Classmate Rashid Epps also ranks among league leaders with a 56.4-percent shooting percentage to rank fifth overall, while Kevin O'Brien '19 ranks tied for fifth in blocks per game (1.1).

The Panthers enter the tournament with a 14-10 overall mark and 6-4 record in league play. Middlebury is efficient with the basketball and ranks 10th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4), and lead the league in both turnovers (12.1) and steals per game (8.1). Junior guard Matt St. Amour is the team's leading scorer, and also ranks second in the conference averaging 19.0 ppg, while senior forward Matt Daley pulls in a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game. Middlebury is 13-9 all-time in the NESCAC Championship and have won the title twice, while finishing as runner-up on two other occasions.

As a team, Wesleyan averages 76.1 ppg and Middlebury scores 78.6 ppg. Both teams rank atop the league in rebounding as the Cardinals rank first with 43.3 rpg and the Panthers sit third with 42.4 rpg.

Saturday, February 20 at Higher Seeds
Quarterfinal Games
No. 8 Colby vs. No. 1 Trinity – 3 p.m.
No. 7 Bowdoin vs. No. 2 Amherst – 4 p.m.
No. 6 Williams vs. No. 3 Tufts – 4 p.m.
No. 5 Wesleyan vs. No. 4 Middlebury – 2 p.m.

Saturday, February 27 at Highest Remaining Seed
Semifinal Games – 2 p.m. l 4 p.m.
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners

Sunday, February 28 at Semifinals Site
Championship Game – 12 p.m.