The St. Thomas Aquinas College men's basketball team captured a 78-75 victory in an East Coast Conference contest at the University of the District of Columbia. The Spartans, ranked #2 in the East Region, improve to 14-4 overall and 5-1 in the conference, with UDC falling to 1-14, 0-7.
Jamar Sudan and Shaq McFarlan each hit early three-pointers as the Spartans opened a 21-12 lead after nine minutes of play. Quadire Truesdale's jumper cut the UDC deficit to 27-24 with 4:27 left in the half but STAC ran off a 7-0 spurt before settling for a 34-31 halftime advantage. A James Mitchell jumper made the score 53-42 midway into the second half, but the Firebirds would begin to chip away.
STAC's offense ran cold as the hosts rode treys from Traevon Butler and Kevin Cox to an 11-1 run, drawing within 54-53 with 6:18 remaining. Mitchell hit a pair from the line, but Maurice Waters hit a bucket and Cox drilled another from deep to put UDC on top. Waters' layup with 3:31 left topped off the 10-0 outburst, leaving the Spartans reeling with a 63-56 deficit.
Sudan and McFarlan hit consecutive buckets and Chris Atkinson drilled a three to tie the score at 63-63 exactly 60 seconds later, and after each team hit a pair from the line, Atkinson's put-back put the visitors on top by two, with another Mitchell free throw opening a 68-65 edge with 1:16 left. Truesdale hit three-of-four from the stripe in the final minute and Atkinson's deep attempt at the buzzer was off the mark, setting the stage for overtime.
Neither team recorded a point for the first 1:46 of extra time before Atkinson hit to give STAC a 70-68 edge. An exchange of hoops tied the score at 72-72, but McFarlan tallied to put his team on top to stay with 2:08 left. Murrell's jumper and a pair of McFarlan free throws sealed the deal on the hard-fought victory.
Sudan came off the bench to record career-highs of 17 points and 10 rebounds, with Murrell (15), Atkinson (14), and McFarlan (12) all reaching double-figures. Danny Shand paced the Firebirds with 17, with three teammates scoring 12 each. STAC dominated the boards by a 44-32 margin, but shot just 39% from the field (25-64) compared to 53% (27-51) for UDC.
The Spartans return to ECC play on Wednesday, January 17, traveling to face NYIT before returning to host LIU Post in a 3:00 pm start on Saturday, January 20 at Aquinas Hall.