The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team won its fifth straight, a 99-87 East Coast Conference triumph at Molloy College. The Spartans, ranked #25 in the D2SIDA National Poll, have now won 10 of their last 11 overall, improving to 10-3 on the season and grabbing first place in the ECC with a 3-0 record. Molloy fell to 3-8, 2-1 with the loss.
Though they have struggled at times with slow starts, the Spartans wasted little time jumping on the hosts in the rematch of last season's ECC Tournament Finalists. James Mitchell and Kameron Murrell each scored five straight points as STAC bolted to a 12-0 lead after just over three minutes of action. A three from Murrell opened the gap to 31-13 with just under nine to play in the first half.
Molloy chipped away with a Chris O'Reilly trey and a pair of Steven Torre free throws cutting the margin to 43-36, thought the visitors scored the half's final seven points capped by a PJ Alkins three-pointer to carry a 50-36 lead into the locker room at half.
STAC allowed the Lions no closer than 13 points and appeared ready to cruise to the win when Murrell struck again from deep to open a seemingly-comfortable 82-60 with just 5:42 remaining. Molloy suddenly came to life, with four Nick Corbett foul shots highlighting an 11-0 run over a 73-second span, halving the deficit at 82-71 with 4:19 on the clock.
A consecutive pair of baskets from Steven Torre and Curtis Jenkins drew Molloy to reachable distance at 85-79 with 2:18 left. Murrell and Justin Reyes combined to hit four straight from the line, and another Murrell trey with 1:20 left removed any hope of the Lions completing their improbable comeback.
Murrell's 30 point outburst was his best with St. Thomas Aquinas, and he has now hit double-figures in scoring in seven of his eight games with STAC. Reyes made his usual major impact with 22 points and eight caroms, while Mitchell added 19. Mike Torre led Molloy with 24 points, aided by 22 from Corbett. The visitors enjoyed a 31-24 rebounding advantage, and continued their sharp shooting from the foul line, going 25-for-29 for 86%.
The Spartans return home in less than 24 hours, hosting Holy Family University for a non-conference 2:00 pm start on Sunday, December 17. They will then be off for the holiday break until Adelphi visits Aquinas Hall on Saturday, December 30 with tip set for 2:00.