The Middlebury men’s basketball team is off to a 2-0 start with a sweep of the Rinso Marquette Tournament at Lebanon Valley College. The Panthers won a close game against Ursinus in the opener and then beat the hosts Lebanon Valley in a more decisive 72-63 win this afternoon. Sophomore Hunter Merryman and captain Nolan Thompson were named to the All-Tournament team with the latter winning the tournament MVP award. Thompson averaged 15.5 points over the two games, shooting 11-21 from the floor and 6-14 from beyond the arc. The Panthers had balanced scoring in both games as five different players scored double digit points in the first game and four in the second.
Merryman was the biggest surprise on the offensive end, averaging 13.5 points in just 19 minutes per game (11-19 FG). After spending most of last season at the end of the bench, Merryman appears to have won himself a big role off the bench with his scoring ability. The 6’6″ forward has great touch inside and deep shooting range, making him a very tough matchup for opponents, and the Panthers will continue to lean on him all season. Merryman’s man defense and rebounding abilities need to improve if he is going to continue to play this many minutes. James Jensen’s performance was another positive takeaway, although we are not surprised. The already standout defender has worked an effective mid-range jump shot into his offensive game. He averaged 9 points per game in the tournament, shooting 54% from the field to go along with three blocks and four steals. If Jensen and Merryman continue to score at this rate, it will go a long way towards offsetting the loss of Dylan Sinnickson.
It looks the Panthers are going to go with a Kizel-Wolfin-Thompson-Lynch-Roberts starting five for the time being, with Jensen and Nate Bulluck first off the bench, followed by Merryman and Dean Brierly. Freshmen Mat Daley is the only reserve outside of those four who logged five or more minutes this weekend. Kizel and Lynch both played below their abilities in Lebanon, but nothing about their play was reason for concern — they will return to form soon. Middlebury’s 21.5 three-point attempts per game this weekend were about 5 more than they averaged last season — something to we watch for as this offense finds its identity.