The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team dropped it's first East Coast Conference decision of the season, an 82-79 setback at Daemen College. The nationally-ranked Spartans slipped to 15-3, 7-1 on the season, while Daemen improved to 15-3, 7-1. STAC is now in a tie with Daemen for second place in the ECC standings, one-half game behind Molloy at 8-1.
Daemen jumped to an early 5-2 lead but STAC clamped down the defense and answered with an 18-4 outburst, claiming a 20-9 lead midway through the first half. Demetre Roberts sparked the Spartan offense and Zach Rzewnicki hit a three as the Spartans carried a 33-26 advantage into intermission.
While the visitors extended the margin back to 10 early in the second half, the Wildcats chipped away, drawing even at 49-49 on an Andrew Sischo bucket just past the midway point of the half. Several lead changes marked the rest of regulation, with Sischo putting Daemen on top with 1:50 to go only to see Jamar Sudan knot the game at 68-68 with two from the line with 56 seconds left. Each team had chances in the final minute but came up empty, with Breon Harris' attempted game-winner being off the mark at the buzzer.
Both teams continued the epic struggle into overtime with the lead again changing hands until a pair of Kevin Lynch free throws put the Spartans on top at 79-76 with just 27 seconds on the clock. Darius Garvin went coast-to-coast with his layup cutting the gap to one with just 19 seconds left, setting the stage for an exciting finish. With the Wildcats applying full-court pressure, Kam Murrell took the inbound and dribbled into solid contact from Deion Hamilton, sending him to the deck with the ball coming loose for an easy layup by Hamilton, putting Daemen on top. Trying to reclaim the lead in the final seconds, Murrell absorbed contact on the offensive end as well, leading to a Kevin Lynch miss. STAC was forced to foul and Jeff Redband hit a pair with 3.8 remaining, and a desperation shot from Roberts as the buzzer was off line to end the thriller.
Sischo led all scorers with 26 points while Hamilton added 22 for Daemen, while Roberts and Caraballo led four STAC scorers in double-figures with 17 each.
The Spartans close out their weekend road trip at Roberts Wesleyan in a 4:00 pm start on Sunday, January 27, before returning to Aquinas Hall for another ECC tussle against Mercy College on Wednesday, January 31. Double-header action starts at 5:30 pm with the women's teams squaring off, followed by the men's game at approximately 7:30.