The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team rallied from a 22-point deficit to a 76-73 victory in a non-conference tilt at Philadelphia University. The Spartans, ranked #2 in the East Region in this week's D2SIDA poll, have now won four straight and stand at 14-4 overall, with Philadelphia slipping to 12-7 after the loss.
STAC yielded the game's first seven points and slipped into a 16-4 hole just five minutes in on the strength of Brendan Kilpatrick's pair of treys for the Rams. The hosts were sharp from the perimeter in the first half, hitting 8-15 from beyond the arc (53%) to just 1-12 (8%) from long distance for the Spartans. That helped PhilaU open a sizeable 43-31 lead before Jon Lawton's late jumper began the momentum shift for the visitors.
Despite trailing by 20, STAC set the tone early in the second, with Shaq McFarlan converting a three-point play just six seconds into the stanza. Even with that strong start, the Spartans faced a 51-36 deficit after Andre Gibbs' jumper with 15:41 left.
With the Rams utilizing just their starting five players, STAC's defense began to take it's toll, holding the hosts off the board for nearly five minutes as McFarlan and Chaz Watler hit from deep as part of a 12-0 run, quickly closing the gap to 51-48 with over 11 minutes left. From there, the teams would take turns, with St. Thomas Aquinas drawing close, only to see Philly have an answer.
That held until Watler's hoop with 5:29 left drew the game even at 61-61, but just eight seconds later Jordan DeCicco nailed a trey to put the Rams back up by three. On four more occasions thereafter, STAC drew to within one without grabbing the lead until doing so for the first time on a Justin Reyes jumper, making the score 74-73 with just 57 seconds to play. The Rams came up empty on a pair of threes, McFarlan added a pair of free throws, and a desperation shot by Kilpatrick for the tie came up short at the buzzer.
Watler came through for the Spartans, tying for the game-high with 22 points, with Reyes adding 14, McFarlan with 12, and Lawton with 11. DeCicco had 22 to lead Philadelphia, with Kilpatrick recording 19. The perimeter shooting balanced out in the second half with STAC stroking 71% (5-7) to just 20% for the Rams (3-15). The Spartans also enjoyed a decisive 32-30 rebounding advantage.
Though this was a non-conference affair, the Spartans did move back into a tie for first in the East Coast Conference standings on the strength of Bridgeport's victory over District of Columbia, with STAC and UDC now both at 7-2. The second half of the conference slate begins with an important showdown against Molloy College at Aquinas Hall this Saturday, January 21. Game time is approximately 3:00 pm, as the back end of a double-header featuring the women's teams at 1:00.