The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team battled to an 87-80 victory over Daemen College in an East Coast Conference battle between two of the East's top squads at Aquinas Hall. Entering this week's play, Daemen was ranked #8 in the nation in the NABC Coaches Poll with STAC placing #24, with the Wildcats earning the same rank from D2SIDA and the Spartans ranked #17. The squads also held the top two slots, respectively, in this week's East Region poll. The Spartans have won three straight to improve to 10-1, 3-0 while Daemen fell to 11-2, 2-1.
After an early exchange of leads, a Breon Harris three-pointer gave Daemen a 19-11 lead after seven minutes of action. but Grant Singleton hit a pair of buckets as an 8-0 run brought the Spartans even at the midway point of the first half. The lead would change hands three more times before Harris hit two from the line to open a 34-28 lead for the visitors with four minutes remaining until intermission.
Demetre Roberts and Sekou Cisse hit consecutive buckets for STAC, and Roberts added a three-pointer in the final minute to cap a 12-3 run, giving the hosts a 40-37 edge at halftime. An Andrew Sischo basket narrowed Daemen's gap to 51-47 but the Spartan defense clamped down, holding the visitors without a point for over four minutes as Osbel Caraballo registered four straight points to open a 58-47 gap.
Despite carrying a nine-point lead into the final minutes, St. Thomas Aquinas endured some anxious moments as a deep trey from Breon Harris and three free throws from Jeff Redband closed the gap to 83-80 with 17 seconds left. On the ensuing inbound, Cisse was nearly trapped in the backcourt but found a cutting Caraballo to escape the potential turnover, and four free throws sealed the final margin.
Five Spartans recorded double-figures in the victory, with Roberts amassing 23 while Cisse, Singleton, Caraballo, and Kevin Lynch added 13 each. Sischo led all scorers with 30 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds, and Harris added 22 for Daemen.
The Spartans close out the calendar year on Saturday, December 21, when the University of Findlay (Ohio) visits Aquinas Hall for a rare out-of-region match-up, with tip time set for 1:00 pm. They will then ring in the year 2020 with three straight non-conference battles, visiting Bloomfield (Jan. 2) and Saint Rose (Jan. 4) before returning home to meet New Haven (Jan. 8).