CASTLETON, Vt. – As the halfway point of the North Atlantic Conference schedule passes this weekend, the Castleton University men's basketball team has a great opportunity to take control of the league standings, hosting Husson University Friday, Jan. 20, and Maine Maritime Academy Saturday, Jan. 21, at Glenbrook Gym.
In a tight conference race in which the top nine teams are separated by just three games, Castleton is tied with Husson for the NAC lead with a 6-2 conference mark. The Spartans, 11-3 overall, are coming off victories over Colby-Sawyer last Thursday (101-92) and New England College last Saturday (76-65) and have won six of their last seven games. The team is asking Spartan fans to wear a white shirt to Friday's game to create a whiteout in Glenbrook Gym.
Tondi Mushandu, the current NAC Player of the Week, is fifth in the country in field goal percentage as he has hit 64.5 percent (78-for-121) of his attempts from the floor. Senior Chad Copeland continues to lead the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 17.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as he is shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 72.2 percent from the free throw line. As a team, Castleton is 18th in the country in field goal percentage (49.4 percent) and 19th in Division III in field goal percentage defense (39.1 percent).
Husson is 8-5 overall and 6-2 in the NAC after losing to Lyndon State last Saturday, 71-70. As a team, the Eagles are scoring 77.5 points per game and shooting 41.4 percent from the field, including 32.3 percent from behind the three-point line, and 71.9 percent from the free throw line.
Raheem Anderson leads the conference and is 12th in the country in scoring, averaging 24.0 points per game as he is shooting 38.8 percent from behind the three-point line and 84.1 percent from the free throw line. Mitch Worcester is contributing 12.5 points per game, and Justin Martin leads the team with 11.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game, 13th in the country in blocked shots per game and 18th in rebounds per game.
Husson holds a 26-9 series lead over Castleton and has won the last seven meetings between the two teams, with the Spartans' last win over the Eagles coming on Feb. 2, 2013. Last season, Husson defeated Castleton on Jan. 22 in Maine, 73-61, led by 17 points and eight rebounds from Trevon Butler. Rob Coloutti led Castleton with 26 points, while Mushandu finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. In the rematch on Feb. 13, the Eagles defeated the Spartans, 85-59, with Butler scoring 20 points for Husson and Coloutti leading Castleton with 17 points.
Heading into the weekend, Maine Maritime is 3-12 overall and 0-8 in conference play after losing back-to-back overtime games to Lyndon State (72-70) and Johnson State (66-62) last weekend. As a team, the Mariners are scoring 68.4 points per game and shooting 41.9 percent from the field, including 38.8 percent from behind the three-point line, and 72.4 percent from the free throw line.
Four players are averaging in double figures in scoring for the Mariners, led by Tyler Thayer with 16.5 points per game along with 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. Brendan Newcomb is averaging 12.5 points per game, Nick Judge is contributing 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, and Nicholas DePatsy is adding 10.3 points per game.
Castleton holds a 23-5 advantage in the all-time series against Maine Maritime and has won 14 consecutive games over the Mariners heading into Saturday's contest. Last season, the Spartans won two close games over the Mariners, starting with a 56-54 victory on Jan. 23 in which Coloutti made three free throws down the stretch and Castleton held Maine Maritime scoreless in the final 2:40 of regulation. Castleton also won the rematch on Feb. 12, 67-63, with Mushandu scoring 16 points and Pavin Parrish contributing 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
After Saturday's game against Maine Maritime, Castleton will play six of its final nine games of the regular season on the road.