Story by St. Thomas Sports Information
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - In one of the program's biggest wins all-time, the 17th ranked St. Thomas (Fla.) men's basketball team knocked off the No. 2 team in the nation and conference rival Embry-Riddle (Fla.), 81-78, at the ICI Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. St. Thomas improved to 15-3 overall and 5-0 in The Sun Conference. Embry-Riddle fell to 16-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
St. Thomas, winners of 11 of its last 12 games, leads the Sun Conference standings by 1.5 games over Webber International (Fla.). Embry-Riddle lost its second straight game, and along with third ranked Northwood (Fla.) (16-2, 3-2), trails St. Thomas by two games in the conference standings.
The Bobcats trailed by as many as 19 in the first half and were led by junior point guard Kevin Hincapie's 23 points on five made three-pointers. Hincapie also pulled down nine rebounds. Guards Floyd Battle (19), Dylan O'Sullivan (13), Zakary Hackett (10) scored in double figures as well. Center Demonte' Simpson had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Embry-Riddle was led by DeForest Carter who had 23 points and six assists. Cesar Pastrana led the Eagles with nine rebounds to go along with 12 points.
The Bobcats struggled early against the Eagles, falling behind 23-8 after eight minutes to play following an 11-2 ERAU scoring run. The Eagles went on to stretch their lead to 19 points at 29-10 and again at 35-16 at the 6:17 mark of the first half. STU rallied with a 10-0 run capped off by a back-to-back three-pointers by Hincapie that cut the lead to single digits with less than five minutes until intermission. At the break, Embry-Riddle led 45-39 despite STU outshooting ERAU 52% to 44% in the half.
St. Thomas clamped down on the Eagles defensively in the second half, as ERAU made a mere seven field goals on 28 attempts (25% FG) and was one-for-eight from beyond the arc after making eight three-pointers in the opening period.
Using their defense as an impetus, the Bobcats opened the second half with a furious 12-0 scoring run with the final four points of the run coming on fast breaks. The fast break continued to work for St. Thomas as the Bobcats built their biggest lead of the game at 60-50 with 12:03 remaining. ERAU responded with a 11-3 run of its own to cut the lead to two points at 63-61 with 8:24 to play.
The game remained tight with STU holding on to a two-point lead with one minute to play. O'Sullivan hit a jumper and was fouled with 56 seconds on the clock, but missed the free throw that could have put STU up by five. ERAU's Pastrana drew a foul with 36 seconds remaining and drained both free throws to cut the lead back to two at 79-77. The Eagles had the chance to tie the game as Carter drew a foul on Hackett with 11 seconds to play, but he would make just one of the two free throw attempts. Battle was fouled almost immediately and sank two free throws to put the Bobcats back up by three. A three-point attempt at the buzzer by Carter missed the mark, giving St. Thomas the 81-78 victory.
St. Thomas returns to action with a pair of road games this week. The Bobcats visit cross-town rival Johnson & Wales (Fla.) on Tuesday before facing no. 3 Northwood (Fla.) on Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla. STU returns home with a matchup vs. no. 18 Ave Maria (Fla.) on Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Fernandez Family Center.