LYNDONVILLE, Vt. – Castleton University withstood Lyndon State's three-point shooting throughout the night, holding the Hornets without a field goal in the final three minutes of regulation to win, 69-68, Thursday evening in a North Atlantic Conference men's collegiate basketball game.
With 5:45 remaining in the second half and the score tied at 60-60, Castleton called timeout, and Edmund Fitzgerald hit a three-pointer coming out of the break. Chad Copeland made baskets on consecutive Spartan possessions to keep Castleton ahead, 67-62, with 3:41 left in regulation.
Baskets by Jose Berroa and Josiah Woodruff over the next minute pulled Lyndon State to within one, but Jordan Nelson hit a jumper as the shot clock ran down to extend the Castleton lead back to three at 69-66. Xavier Colbert hit two free throws to close the Hornet deficit back to one with less than two minutes left in the second half.
Neither team made a basket as time wound down, and then Lyndon State was forced to commit a series of fouls to put Castleton in the bonus with less than 30 seconds to go. The Spartans missed two front ends of one-and-one situations, with the Hornets grabbing the rebound on the second one to gain an opportunity for a go-ahead basket.
However, Nelson would pick up a steal on Lyndon State's possession, forcing the Hornets to foul him. Although he missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity, all Lyndon State had time for was a desperation heave, which was off-target as the buzzer sounded.
Nelson shot 7-of-11 from the field as he led the Spartans with 18 points, plus he collected two rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Copeland notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Tondi Mushandu scored 12 points, and Casey Belade made all four of his shots, including two three-pointers, to contribute 10 points off the bench.
Woodruff led Lyndon State with 17 points and five rebounds, Charles Correa Jr. hit five three-pointers for 15 points, and Corey Frost made four three-pointers to finish with 12 points. Of the Hornets' 24 made field goals, 14 of them came from behind the three-point line as Lyndon State shot 44.4 percent (24-of-54) from the field, including 14-of-31 from long distance, and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
The first half was a series of runs, starting with an 8-0 run by Lyndon State to give the Hornets an early 11-4 lead. Taurian Archie scored four points during a 6-1 Castleton run that cut the Spartan deficit to two, but the Hornets responded with another 8-0 run, featuring two three-pointers by Frost, to extend Lyndon State's advantage to 20-10 halfway through the first half.
After Castleton called timeout, the Spartans put together a 12-0 scoring run over the next four minutes, capped by a three-pointer from Belade, to give Castleton a 22-20 lead. Lyndon State scored the next five points, followed by six unanswered points from the Spartans to allow the visitors to regain the lead, 28-25.
Lyndon State (10-13, 9-8 NAC) tied the game on a long three-pointer by Eric Vargas with 2:23 left in the first half, but a layup by Mushandu late in the half put the Spartans ahead, 33-30. Correa hit a three-pointer with just a few seconds left on the clock to once again tie the game, but Nelson pushed the ball up the floor and converted on a jumper from the paint as time ran out to give Castleton a 35-33 halftime lead.
The two teams basically exchanged baskets during the early portion of the second half, with Frost hitting a three-pointer to tie the game at 49-49. Castleton scored the next five points, but the Hornets took the lead on back-to-back three-pointers by Frost and Correa. The Spartans answered with baskets by Nelson and Mushandu, but a three-pointer by Woodruff created another tie at 58-58.
As a team, the Spartans shot 56 percent (28-of-50) from the field, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point line, but just 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from the free throw line. Castleton won the rebounding battle, 29-23, and each team committed 16 turnovers, but the Hornets took better advantage of the Spartan turnovers, scoring 18 points off the Castleton mistakes.
Castleton (16-7, 11-6 NAC) hosts Johnson State in the regular season finale Saturday, Feb. 18, starting at 1 p.m. at Glenbrook Gym. The Spartans can clinch the second seed in next week's NAC Tournament and a bye into the semifinals with a victory over the Badgers, who defeated Green Mountain Thursday, 59-56, to remain in contention for a tournament berth.