The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team, ranked #16 in the D2SIDA National Poll, grabbed a 97-79 East Coast Conference victory over the University of the District of Columbia at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans have now won nine straight overall, improving to 19-4 overall and 12-2 in the ECC Standings, retaining their hold on first place in the conference standings.
Not only did the win avenge UDC's 85-80 home victory on December 17th, but it was the 15th straight home ECC win for the Spartans, who have a record of 30-8 against ECC opponents at Aquinas Hall under Coach Tobin Anderson, including 25 of their last 27.
It was UDC that jumped to the strong start, with Reggie Sidbury's three keying a 6-0 start over the first two minutes. Aaron Cust, Justin Reyes and Chaz Watler spurred the answer, as the Spartans ran to a 13-3 run and a 13-9 lead.
Joseph Nickerson buried a pair of threes to put the Firebirds up at 19-18, but a pair of Reyes free throws capped an 11-1 run, with STAC extending its lead to 29-20. Nickerson continued his torrid shooting and Kasim Chandler trimmed the deficit to 42-40 with a late lay-up. While STAC led by an identical two-point margin in the teams' first meeting, the hosts were determined to write a different script in the rematch.
A frantic exchange of baskets in the early minutes after intermission saw Chandler draw UDC even at 46-46 with 17:52 left, but the Spartans' high pace and relentless pressure eventually took a toll, as five different scorers punctuated a decisive 15-0 explosion over the next three minutes.
UDC drew to within 61-52 on Jahkeem Folks' lay-up with 13 minutes left, but Reyes and Adam Koziol each scored five consecutive points as a 13-1 Spartan outburst opened a 74-53 cushion, more than enough to lift the hosts to victory.
Watler came up big for STAC with 26 points, with Reyes adding 20 and a game-high 14 boards, Aaron Cust continued his hot play with 19, and James Mitchell recorded 11. Nickerson was a force in the losing effort for the Firebirds, hitting eight threes and exploding for a game-high 35 points. The hosts earned an 44-33 rebounding edge while helping their cause with a perfect 15-for-15 from the foul line.
The Spartans have just four regular season ECC games - five overall - remaining, as they look to reclaim their Regular Season Championship. That quest continues against last season's Co-Champion, the University of Bridgeport, as the teams square off in Connecticut on Wednesday, February 8, at 7:00 pm. STAC travels to Queens on Saturday, February 11 before hosting their final ECC home game of the season, on Wednesday February 15 at 7:00 pm vs Daemen College.