CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University men's basketball team opened the season with an impressive victory on Tuesday evening, taking down Rivier in a non-conference showdown at Glenbrook Gym, 81-67.
Tank Roberson poured in a team-leading 14 points and dished out eight assists, while Casey Belade added 13 points off the bench and Cameron Edwards added 12 points as a reserve. Igor Almeida pulled in a game-high 11 rebounds, while Calvin Carter went for nine points and eight rebounds in his Castleton debut.
The Spartans (1-0) shot 42.6 percent from the floor as a team, including a 37.5 percent mark from long range. Castleton converted on 20 of its 29 free-throw attempts for a 69 percent rate at the charity stripe. Rivier (1-2) made shots at a 36.8 percent rate with a 31.4 percent mark from three-point range and a 60.0 percent mark at the free-throw line. Castleton dominated the battle of the boards, pulling in 50 rebounds to Rivier's 31, including 13 offensive boards that led to nine second-chance points.
It was a two-man show for the Raiders' offense, as Nate Hale led all scorers with 29 points and Isaiah Marks added 17 points off the bench. The two combined for six three-pointers while shooting a combined 18-of-32 (56.3 percent) while the rest of the team shot just 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) from the field.
Castleton got on the board to open the game, as the first points of the season came on an emphatic dunk by Carter and the lead quickly stretched to 5-0 when he buried a three. The Spartans took a 9-3 lead into the first media timeout after Edwards made a layup to push the early lead to six points. Rivier battled back minutes later, as Jalen Watson and Issaiah Chappell buried threes on back-to-back possessions to make it just a one-point before Watson's second three of the game gave Rivier its first lead, 12-10.
The two sides traded blows until the midway point of the first half, when the Spartans got a layup from Julian Santos and a three-ball from Ben Mrowka to open the lead back up, 24-18. The Raiders battled back again, taking a four-point lead of their own with just more than four minutes to play in the opening stanza after Tarik Rivers drove for a layup and Marks drained a triple, making it 34-30 before a Spartan timeout.
Castleton came out of the timeout with the hot hand, as Belade hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one before the Spartans regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Richard Walker. After an Almeida layup made it a three-point Castleton lead, Chappell buried a three again for Rivier, knotting the game up at 37-all.
An easy layup by Walker on the following possession sparked a crucial run for Castleton, as the Spartans rattled off nine consecutive points to take a 46-37 lead late in the opening half. The Raiders got two points back late as Josh O'Loughlin cashed in on a layup, but Castleton took a 46-39 lead into the locker room.
Rivier narrowed a seven-point gap to four points just three minutes in the second half, but got no closer as Castleton gradually pulled away throughout the final 20 minutes. Castleton went on an 18-5 run from that point, pushing the advantage to 70-53 for its largest lead of the night. The Spartans outscored the Raiders 35-28 in the second stanza, including nine points from Roberson and seven points from Belade in the half. Almeida hauled in eight of his 11 rebounds in the second half, including six on the defensive side of the ball.
Castleton returns to action this weekend at The Cave Classic at Bridgewater State, facing off with former North Atlantic Conference rival Colby-Sawyer on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.