The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team held off Queens College for an 88-82 victory in an East Coast Conference battle at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans were ranked #14 in the nation in this week's NABC poll, ascended to the top slot in this week's D2SIDA East Region poll and #12 in that group's national poll, and have won 8-of-9 to improve to 14-2 overall. They are now 6-0 in ECC play, remaining one-half game behind Molloy College for first place. With the loss, Queens slipped to 3-14 overall and 3-4 in conference action.
Queens jumped to a 5-0 lead in the opening two minutes on the strength of a Keenan Gorski three-pointer but the Spartans clamped down the defensive pressure, allowing just one point over a span of 9:16. Five players hit the scoresheet in a 15-1 STAC run to open a 15-6 lead with Sekou Cisse leading the charge, but the Knights responded with a 10-2 burst of their own to close to within 21-20 with six minutes left in the low-scoring first half. The session of runs continued with the hosts reeling off a 9-2 burst, only to see Queens score the final eight points of the half, tying the score at 30-30 as Gorski hit three free throws with under a second left.
A different story was in store in the second half, as both teams flipped the offensive switch. The Knights quickly grabbed a 35-32 edge, but Demetre Roberts and Zach Rzewnicki drilled treys in a 14-0 run over a span of just under three minutes to open the largest lead to that point at 46-35. Grant Singleton's layup gave STAC a 51-37 margin with just over 14 minutes to go, but the resilient visitors once again battled back.
While both teams traded points in the high-scoring session, Queens continued to narrow the margin until a pair of Kevin Buron free throws made the score 75-70 with 3:52 remaining. The Knights would draw within five two more times during the stretch and Buron hit from deep to close to 82-78 with 37 seconds remaining but that was as close as they were to come as STAC secured its 10th victory of the season by a margin of eight points or less.
Cisse carried the load for St. Thomas Aquinas, reeling off game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Roberts added 19 points and Osbel Caraballo chipped in 16. Shomari Redd led four Queens players in double-figures with 23, while Gorski added 19.
The Spartans have a big week on the road coming up, starting with a battle of the lone undefeated teams in the ECC at Molloy College this Saturday, January 19. They will then be off until embarking on their Western New York travel weekend, squaring off against powerful Daemen College on Friday, January 25, and meeting Roberts Wesleyan that Sunday.