CASTLETON, Vt. – A layup by Jordan Nelson with three seconds remaining in regulation sent Friday's battle of the top two teams in the North Atlantic Conference standings into overtime, but Husson University made its free throws and played tough defense to defeat Castleton University, 77-71, in a conference contest at Glenbrook Gym.
After Mitch Worcester and Raheem Anderson made two free throws each to give Husson a 63-62 lead with 56 seconds remaining in regulation, Chad Copeland was fouled on Castleton's next possession, but he made just one of two free throws, tying the game. Anderson hit a jump shot with 14 seconds to go to put the Eagles back on top, 65-63, but Nelson answered with a driving layup to force the extra five-minute session.
Anderson made two more free throws with 3:40 left to start the overtime scoring, but Copeland answered a minute later with a three-pointer to give the Spartans a one-point advantage. With 1:36 to go in the extra frame, Worcester was fouled and made two free throws, and then Husson forced Castleton into a 30-second violation.
Anderson once again was fouled and converted both free throw attempts to extend the Husson lead to three, and then he pulled down a defensive rebound, drew another foul, and made two more shots from the charity stripe to give Husson a 73-68 advantage with 31 seconds remaining. Ben Mrowka hit an off-balance three-pointer to cut the Spartan deficit to 73-71, and then Anderson missed a free throw attempt, Husson's first miss from the charity stripe after 19 straight conversions, keeping it a one-possession game.
However, Castleton committed a turnover, Worcester was fouled and made one free throw to make it a two-possession game, and the Spartans missed a three-point attempt. Anderson closed out the scoring with two more free throws as Husson went 12-for-14 from the free throw line in the overtime period.
Copeland shot 10-of-23 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free throw line as he finished with a season-high 31 points along with five rebounds and three steals. Tondi Mushandu went 8-for-13 from the field as he scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds, while Nelson finished with eight points, seven assists, and six steals. Edmund Fitzgerald pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds as Castleton enjoyed a slight 37-36 rebounding advantage.
Anderson shot 10-of-21 from the field and 15-of-16 from the free throw line for 35 points, while Worcester contributed 15 points and Justin Martin added nine points and 11 rebounds. Husson shot 40 percent (24-of-60) from the field, including 6-of-21 from behind the three-point line, and 92 percent (23-of-25) from the free throw line.
Castleton opened the game with an 11-2 scoring run, but Husson immediately answered with seven straight points. Castleton scored eight unanswered points, the last four by Copeland, and would eventually take its largest lead of the game at 12 midway through the first half.
Husson (9-5, 7-2 NAC) closed to within three twice late in the first half on baskets by Justin Smith, but consecutive layups by Mushandu in the final minute extend the Spartan lead to 39-32 at halftime.
Down 42-36 three minutes into the second half, Husson went on a 13-2 scoring run, capped by a three-pointer from Alonzo McCain, to pull ahead 49-44. Once again, Copeland capped a Castleton scoring run with consecutive baskets, as the Spartans scored nine straight points to retake the lead at 53-49 with 9:10 left in regulation, and the game remained close the rest of the way.
As a team, Castleton shot 41.7 percent (25-of-60) from the field, including 3-of-15 from behind the three-point line, and 69.2 percent (18-of-26) from the free throw line.
Castleton (11-4, 6-3 NAC) hosts Maine Maritime Saturday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m. at Glenbrook Gym.