In December, it took a 10-1 scoring run in the final four minutes for the men’s basketball team to beat Colby. In last weekend’s rematch, the Polar Bears wasted no time in whipping the Mules in a solid 63-49 victory.

Led by 18 points and 10 rebounds from the resurgent Andrew Madlinger ’14, the Bowdoin men never trailed in their triumph in Waterville last Saturday. Sizzling shooting guard Matt Mathias ’14 chipped in 13 points while point guard Bryan Hurley ’15 added 12 points and eight assists.
Colby’s match-up zone, a hybrid defense designed to pressure the opposition’s ball-handler, gave Bowdoin trouble in December. But after a month of training over Winter Break, the Polar Bears were better prepared for this season’s second face-off with their rivals. 

“Instead of forcing the ball to the wing, [Hurley] would dribble through and we’d have men flashing to the high post,” said Madlinger. “Our big men had an easy time passing to each other, and we could also kick it back out to shooters.”

Bowdoin’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Keegan Pieri ’15 missed the game due to a concussion, which led to some lineup shuffling by Head Coach Tim Gilbride. Marko Peraica ’15 started in Pieri’s place, and centers Max Staiger ’13 and John Swords ’15 shared significant court time for the first time this season. The tall pair—who together stand 13’10”—recorded a combined 15 points and 16 rebounds.

Despite the impressive offensive performances from the Polar Bears, Gilbride said that defense was responsible for the team’s victory.

“I thought we consistently played defense very well throughout the game,” he said. “We didn’t have any bad stretches and that helped us get and maintain the lead.”

On Tuesday, the men returned home to take the floor against Thomas College. Bowdoin spanked the vertically-challenged Terriers, winning by a final score of 93-43. Madlinger had 23 points and was joined in double figures by Mathias, Staiger, and Swords. Hurley doled out 13 assists and Grant White ’14 played 11 minutes off the bench in his first action since suffering a season-ending football injury in September.

Stiffer competition rolls into town this weekend as the Polar Bears prepare to face Middlebury today and Williams on Saturday. The Panthers and Ephs are ranked third and first in the conference, respectively. 

Middlebury was undefeated this season until losing by one at Williams last Saturday. Middlebury senior forward Peter Lynch leads the No. 6 nationally-ranked Panthers in scoring, averaging 15.8 points in only 23.8 minutes per game, and holds the second-highest field-goal percentage in D-III. 

“Middlebury’s top in the country, and they’ve always been that way,” said Madlinger. “Going into the game, we know that we have to play a notch better than we have. That’s the challenge and that’s the fun of it.” 

Things do not get any easier against Williams, the No. 9 team in the country. The Ephs feature a versatile inside-outside offense. Junior center Michael Mayer is a four-time NESCAC Player of the Week this season, and is second in the conference in rebounds and third in overall scoring. Junior forward Taylor Epley is second in the league in scoring and is shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range.

“We’re going to be very consistent in how we defend them,” said Gilbride. “Whether someone starts hitting shots outside or they’re scoring inside, we’re going to let them have their little run and stick to our game plan.”

Pieri is probable to return for this weekend’s action, much to the relief of his teammates. However, Madlinger notes his brief absence may pay long-term dividends for the team.
“It’s a good sign that we played so well without him,” Madlinger said. “It should give us some momentum going forward.”