WATERVILLE, Maine – Casey McGraw drained a three-pointer with 44 seconds to play to help push Castleton University past Thomas College, 76-75, in North Atlantic Conference (NAC) men's basketball play Friday evening at Larry Mahaney Gymnasium.
Trailing 71-67 with 2:04 remaining, the Terriers (11-9, 7-6 NAC) rattled off five straight points on a three-point play by Levi Barnes and a pair of free throws by Dayne Savage to take a 72-71 lead into the final minute of play. On the Spartans' next trip down the floor, they grabbed the lead back on McGraw's three-pointer. Savage drove the length of the court but his layup attempt failed to draw iron and was corralled by McGraw.
With the Terriers forced to foul, Julian Santos Molina drained a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 76-72 and put the game out of reach. Mike Akanji hit a three-pointer with under a second to play to cut the final margin to one.
Castleton (7-13, 6-7 NAC) finished the game shooting 54.5 percent (30-of-55) from the floor -- slightly better than Thomas' 54.2 percent (26-of-48). Both teams hit eight three-pointers and while the Terriers finished 15-of-23 at the charity stripe, Castleton was just 8-of-10.
Barnes led four Terriers in double-digits with a game-high 20 on 7-of-11 shooting. Savage added 12 points, three boards and three assists, while Justin Murray had 11 points, five assists and three rebounds. Carlos Gonzalez fell just short of a double-double, tallying 10 points and nine rebounds before being ejected with 10:28 to play.
Tondi Mushandu came close to a triple-double himself, finishing with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Edmund Fitzgerald added 12 points and four rebounds off the bench while Rob Coloutti added 11 points, four rebounds and three steals.
Castleton grabbed the early momentum, draining five three-pointers in the first 4:03 to take a 17-5 lead. Back-to-back hoops by Fitzgerald allowed the Spartans to extend the lead to 13 points at 21-8, and the teams traded baskets over the next five minutes. Thomas eventually cut the deficit to seven points on a 4-0 spurt with eight minutes left, and then made it a five-point game, 36-31, with 3:36 remaining. Castleton responded with the next seven points to push the lead back to 12 with 1:11 to play, although the Terriers scored the final five points of the half to cut the Spartans' advantage at the break to 43-36.
In the second half, Thomas went on an early run to tie the game at 47 apiece with 15:29 remaining. The Terriers took a three-point lead two minutes later and eventually extended their advantage to 56-51 on a three from Murray at the 10:55 mark. Coloutti responded with a personal 8-0 run, putting Castleton back in front by three just two minutes later.
The two teams traded baskets over the following five minutes, culminating in a three-pointer from Barnes to cut the Thomas deficit to 69-67 with just 3:17 left.
Another solid game by Barnes offensively allowed the senior to jump to fourth place on Thomas' all-time scoring list, passing Scott Raymond (1,689 points; 1997-2001) and Steve Busque (1,700 points; 1978-82). With 1,702 career points heading into Saturday's 3 p.m. home tipoff with Green Mountain (16-4, 11-2 NAC), Barnes could jump to third all-time. Frank McShan, who currently sits third all-time, tallied 1,713 points from 1986-90.