The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team clinched at least a share of the East Coast Conference Regular Season Championship with a decisive 84-50 win over Daemen College at Aquinas Hall. The Spartans, ranked #3 in the first official NCAA Regional Rankings, released today, improve to 21-5 overall and 14-3 in ECC play, with Daemen dropping to 16-7, 10-5, holding on to their third place slot.
STAC has now won 16 straight ECC games at home and 26 of their last 28, while also securing a first round ECC Tourney bye into the semi-finals on Saturday, March 4, at the University of Bridgeport.
Chaz Watler opened the scoring just 12 seconds in, and a steal of the ensuing inbound resulted in a Justin Reyes dunk as the hosts set the tone early. Adam Koziol gave Daemen a taste of things to come, hitting a jumper and adding a three-pointer, as STAC extended to an early 17-5 lead.
Koziol hit two more threes to open the gap to 25-8 midway through the first half, but the Wildcats responded with a 10-1 burst to trim the margin to 24-18. With Daemen firmly in the contest at 28-20 after a Deion Hamilton jumper, the Spartans took off yet again, with another Koziol bomb keying an 11-2 run and a 39-22 halftime chasm.
Watler and Aaron Cust continued the barrage from deep early in the second half as part of an 8-2 run, and the Wildcats were never closer than 21 points as St. Thomas Aquinas at one point topped out with a 42 point cushion while cruising to the win.
In all, Koziol hit his first seven three-point attempts, shooting 8-for-12 in posting a career-high 23 points, with Reyes (18), Cust (16), and Watler (13) aiding the cause. Hamilton was the only Wildcat in double-figures with 10 points.
The Spartans will close out their home schedule on Saturday, February 18, hosting Georgian Court in a non-conference contest. They will then wrap up the regular season against Mercy at Westchester Community College on Wednesday, February 22 - should STAC win that game, they will clinch sole possession of the ECC Regular Season Championship and take the top seed into the following week's tournament.