The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team saw its nine-game winning streak snapped in a 90-89 East Coast Conference setback at the University of Bridgeport. The Spartans are now 19-5 overall and remain in first place in the ECC standings at 12-3, with Bridgeport improving to 14-9, 9-4.
Wild momentum swings punctuated the first half, with Shaq McFarlan burying a three seconds into the contest to start a 7-0 STAC run, answered by a 28-11 Purple Knights' outburst to open a 28-18 advantage. The switch flipped again as the Spartans answered with a 28-10 explosion of their own, entering halftime with a 46-38 lead.
McFarlan opened the scoring in the second half to briefly give the visitors a 10-point cushion, only to see UB rally to tie the contest at 52-52 on a Sam Joseph three, setting the stage for a plethora of lead changes the rest of the way.
STAC rode a 10-0 run to a 77-71 lead with five minutes remaining, but a Joseph trey, a D'Vonne Trumbo bucket, and a three from Stefano Osuji gave the Purple Knights eight points in a span of 1:04 to reclaim the advantage at 79-77. Six straight free throws gave Bridgeport an 85-81 edge with 28 seconds left, but the affair was far from over.
Aaron Cust was fouled and sank a pair with 21 seconds left and, forced to foul, STAC sent Carlos deJesus to the line, where he answered by hitting both to make the tally 87-83 with 19 ticks remaining. Cust quickly scored to cut the gap to two, and Sam Joseph made one of two, giving the Spartans hope, trailing 88-85 with the ball and eight seconds left.
Chaz Watler was whistled for an offensive foul with five seconds left, however, yet STAC's flickering hopes were not extinguished just yet. Joseph made both free throws to make the score 90-85, but Justin Reyes hit a jumper that set the stage for a confusing finish. While many thought the shot was a three-pointer, the referee signaled the hoop as a two, making the score 90-87 with two seconds left. That would prove crucial as Cust stole the ensuing inbound but, thinking his team was only down by two, hit a layup that many thought had sent the game to overtime, but was only enough for the Spartans to fall short by one point.
Reyes led the way for STAC with 25 points, McFarlan added 20, Chaz Watler recorded 16, and Cust scored all of his 11 in the second half. Osuji was a force for Bridgeport with a game-high 27, while Joseph chipped in 25 for the Purple Knights.
The Spartans have four games remaining in the regular season, traveling to face Queens College in an ECC battle on Saturday, February 11, before returning to Aquinas Hall to host Daemen College on Wednesday, February 15, in a 7:00 pm start.