SPARKILL, N.Y. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team trailed fifth-ranked Saint Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) College by just four points in the second half before falling against the Spartans, 86-66, on Sunday in Aquinas Hall Gymnasium during the Spartan Invitational. The Purple Knights are 0-2, while the hosts returned to .500 at 2-2. Saint Thomas Aquinas, which advanced to the 2017 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, is ranked fifth nationally by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and first in the D2SIDA East Region Media Poll.
One day after scoring a career-high 29 points, junior Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) nearly equaled that by scoring 27 for the visitors. Holmes shot 6-of-10 from three-point range, matching his career high in triples and tying Travis Warech '13 for 14th in program history with 127 career threes. Sophomore Eli DiGrande (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) totaled eight points, seven rebounds, three offensive boards, three assists and three steals.
Redshirt sophomore Stan Foster (Rochester, N.Y./Avon Old Farms School) had eight points, six boards and two steals, while senior reserve Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary School) notched eight points and three assists. Sophomore Thomas Jackson III (Middletown, Conn./Holderness School) added six points, seven caroms and five helpers.
Senior Shaquille McFarlan led Saint Thomas Aquinas with 20 points, while redshirt senior Justin Reyes collected 17 points and 17 rebounds. Junior Chris Atkinson handed out seven assists off the bench.
Reyes' two free throws at 17:26 of the opening half put the Spartans up 6-2, but DiGrande countered with consecutive buckets, as he scored each of the Purple Knights' first six points, and Jackson's jumper at 14:59 had the visitors up 8-6. The teams traded the lead three times in an ensuing 2:16 span, with back-to-back Saint Thomas Aquinas triples being met by Holmes' lay-in and a go-ahead three from Richey, but Reyes' jumper pushed the hosts in front and sparked a 20-5 run that concluded on a Reyes bucket at 6:15, making it 32-18. McFarlan's lay-in at 2:58 pushed the lead to a half-best 16 before Saint Michael's rallied as close as 11 on two Holmes freebies with 1:29 left, but the Spartans took a 41-27 lead into halftime.
McFarlan's hoop 32 seconds into the second half extended the advantage to 16, but the Purple Knights trimmed the deficit to 45-41 behind a 14-2 run over a 2:36 stretch. Holmes buried three threes in the final 2:12 of that span alone. Nine of the next 11 points came from the Spartans, who still led by 11 with 9:34 to go before Holmes and Richey wrapped a triple apiece around a host hoop, bringing their squad within 58-51 at 8:03. However, Saint Thomas Aquinas scored the ensuing seven points, and Saint Michael's never again trailed by fewer than 12 points.
Saint Michael's kicks off its home and Northeast-10 Conference schedules by facing regionally-ranked Southern New Hampshire University on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Penmen, who stand sixth in the latest D2SIDA East Region Media Poll, qualified for four of the last five NCAA Tournaments and finished as last year's NE10 Championship runner-up.