CASTLETON, Vt. – With the standings in the North Atlantic Conference tightening up, the Castleton University men's basketball team encounters two crucial tests over the weekend, hosting Colby-Sawyer Thursday, Jan. 12, at 5:30 p.m. before facing New England College on the road Saturday, Jan. 14, at 1 p.m.
After a 62-56 loss to Green Mountain last Saturday, the Spartans are 9-3 overall and 4-2 within the NAC, currently sitting in third place in the league standings. Castleton is one game behind conference leader Husson and a half-game in back of second place New England College. The Spartans are just a half-game ahead of fourth place Thomas College and one game in front of Green Mountain and Johnson State, currently tied for fifth place.
In conference games, Castleton is scoring 72.5 points per game, shooting 49.4 percent from the field, including 28.9 percent from behind the three-point line, and 66.9 percent from the free throw line. After earning his third double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds against Green Mountain, senior Chad Copeland is averaging 18.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game for the Spartans. Tondi Mushandu is 20th in Division III in field goal percentage at 63.3 percent.
Colby-Sawyer enters Thursday's game with a 5-7 overall record after defeating Regis College one week ago, 79-54. The Chargers are 2-3 in NAC play, eighth in the league standings, after suffering an 85-80 overtime loss at Johnson State on Jan. 3. As a team, Colby-Sawyer is averaging 77.7 points per game and shooting 40.9 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from behind the three-point line, and 73.1 percent from the free throw line.
Jourdain Bell is third in the conference and 23rd in the country in scoring average at 22.8 points per game, plus he has collected 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Dana Bean, the current NAC Rookie of the Week, is scoring 11.2 points per game, plus he leads the team with 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game. Bean is shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 78.3 percent from the free throw line.
Colby-Sawyer holds a 12-8 lead over Castleton in the all-time series, including five straight victories heading into Thursday's contest. Last season, the Chargers swept the Spartans, first winning at home 76-45 on Jan. 14 before earning a 76-49 victory at Castleton Feb. 2.
New England College is 9-3 overall after losing at Lesley University last Sunday, 88-74. The Pilgrims are 4-1 in conference play heading into their Thursday NAC game at Green Mountain. As a team, New England College is scoring 82.2 points per game and shooting 42.1 percent from the field, including 38.0 percent from behind the three-point line, and 70.3 percent from the free throw line. The Pilgrims are 17th in the country in free throw attempts (354) and 18th in Division III in made free throws (249).
Izaiah Winston-Brooks leads New England College in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game. He is second in the country with 121 free throw attempts and third in Division III in made free throws with 93. Ricky Leonard is averaging 16.6 points per game, and Jason Jones is contributing 11.4 points per game along with 12.8 rebounds per game, tops in the NAC and fourth in Division III.
On Nov. 30 at Glenbrook Gym, Castleton rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat New England College, 90-77, extending the Spartans' winning streak over the Pilgrims to four games. Five Castleton players scored in double figures, led by Jordan Nelson with 22 points, Mushandu with 20 points, and Edmund Fitzgerald with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Winston-Brooks led the Pilgrims with 22 points, eight rebounds, and four steals.