CASTLETON, Vt. – Castleton University erased a 15-point deficit in the second half to tie Saturday's game with two minutes left in regulation, but Green Mountain College scored the final four points of the contest to defeat the Spartans, 68-64, in a North Atlantic Conference men's basketball game at Glenbrook Gym.
Despite the loss, Castleton, now 12-13 overall, qualified for the NAC Men's Basketball Tournament as the sixth seed with a 9-9 league mark. Green Mountain sees its season end at 8-16 overall and 6-12 within the NAC.
Green Mountain opened a 10-2 lead, punctuated by a steal and a dunk from Matt Hess, and then extended that advantage to 20-7 halfway through the first half on a three-pointer by Alex Sanchez. Still behind by 13 late in the first half after a rebound and putback by Oluwadare Sowunmi, the Spartans closed their deficit to 10 at halftime, 33-23, with three straight points by Jordan Nelson.
Three-pointers by Christian Przybyla and Duane Goodman Jr. increased the Eagle advantage to 43-28 with 14:35 left in the second half. Castleton started working its way back with six straight points before three-pointers by Goodman and Przybyla gave the Eagles a 49-36 lead with 12:06 left on the clock.
Once again down by 15 after a layup by De Shaun Carr, Castleton put together a 12-1 scoring run over a short two-minute span, capped by a three-pointer from Pavin Parrish, to close to within four at 52-48. A traditional three-point play by Hess extended the Eagle lead back to seven, but five straight points by Nelson brought the Spartans within two at 55-53 with 7:35 left in regulation.
Twice Green Mountain increased its lead back to a two-possession game, but both times it was cut down by three-pointers from Denis LeCours. Nelson made a free throw with 1:58 remaining in the second half to tie the game at 64-64, but Tyrell Johnson responded on Green Mountain's next possession with a successful jump shot to put the Eagles back on top, 66-64.
Each team failed to score on its next possession, and Castleton used a timeout with 30 seconds left in regulation. However, the Spartans committed a turnover, Carr made two free throws after being fouled, and Castleton's final chance to stay in the game ended with a missed three-point field goal attempt with three seconds left, time which the Eagles ran out.
Nelson led the Spartans with 16 points and six assists, plus he pulled down five rebounds, while Tondi Mushandu collected 12 points and nine rebounds. All five seniors started the Senior Day game, including Luke Czaplewski, who earned his second career start. Parrish finished with five points, five rebounds, and two assists, and Tyler Arsenault added two points and two rebounds.
Goodman shot 7-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-9 from behind the three-point line, as he led all players with 21 points, plus he grabbed eight rebounds and dished out two assists. Johnson contributed 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists, and Hess ended up with seven points along with a game-high 10 rebounds.
As a team, Green Mountain shot 43.1 percent (25-of-58) from the field, including 8-of-23 from behind the three-point line, and 66.7 percent (10-of-15) from the free throw line. The Eagles dominated the rebounding battle, 43-28, but committed 15 turnovers that led to 13 Castleton points.
Although the Spartans shot 49.1 percent (26-of-53) from the field, including 6-of-16 from behind the three-point line, they hurt their own cause by missing 13 of 19 free throws. Castleton committed just 12 turnovers, the fifth time in the last seven games it turned the ball over 12 times or less in a game.
Castleton will head to New London, N.H., to face third seed Colby-Sawyer College in the NAC Tournament quarterfinals Tuesday, Feb. 20, at a time to be announced. The winner of that game will advance to play second seed Husson in the semifinals, to be hosted by top seed New England College, Friday, Feb. 23.