The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team pulled away for an 87-64 East Coast Conference victory at the University of the District of Columbia. The Spartans have now won three straight overall to improve to 19-5, and their 11-3 conference mark assures that they will defend their string of three ECC championships, qualifying for their sixth straight conference tournament. UDC slipped to 9-16. 6-9, remaining in the battle for one of the final ECC tourney slots.
UDC scored the first five points of the game as the Spartans offense struggled to a 7-2 deficit after four minutes of play, but Osbel Caraballo netted five straight points to lift his team to a 9-7 edge. After Juanye Colon put the Firebirds in a 10-9 lead with a three-pointer, but STAC exploded on a 12-0 run in a span of two minutes, with four different scorers contributing to a 21-10 lead.
STAC kept the lead at six or more for the remainder of the half, with Kam Murrell's buzzer-beating layup giving the visitors a 40-30 cushion at the break. Kevin Cox scored for the Firebirds to open the second half, but the Spartans answered with seven straight to increase the tally to 47-32 three minutes into the half. From there, STAC did a stellar job of keeping the hosts from gaining any momentum, as their lead never dwindled to fewer than a dozen points while they steadily pulled away in the waning minutes.
Caraballo and Sekou Cisse led five STAC players in double-figures, tying for game-high with 18 points each, with Demetre Roberts (15), Zach Rzewnicki (12) and Murrell (10) providing the support. Danny Shand and Zachary Olukanni led the surge for UDC with 13 points apiece.
The Spartans will now enjoy a week off before wrapping up the regular season with four tough games in a span nine days, with three of those at home. STAC squares off with Daemen College on Friday, February 22, at 7:30 as the back end of a double-header featuring the women's teams at 5:30. They then host Roberts Wesleyan for a 3:00 pm tip on Sunday, February 24, travel to Queens on Wednesday, February 27, and close out against Molloy on Saturday, March 2 at Aquinas Hall.