PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia University men's basketball team suffered a 76-73 setback to St. Thomas Aquinas Wednesday night in a non-conference showdown in the Gallagher Center.
Philadelphia—who had its season-best four-game winning streak snapped—is now 12-7 overall. The loss ends the Rams' eight-game winning streak in the Gallagher Center, dating back to Feb. 27, 2016.
The Rams came out of the gates red hot as they made six of their first eight shots, including three Brendan Kilpatrick (Norristown, Pa./Malvern Prep) 3-pointers, to quickly open up a 16-4 cushion in the opening five minutes of the game.
The early run was the beginning of what would be a very strong first half for Philadelphia. After the Spartans closed the gap to 21-14, the Rams pulled away by using a 19-5 run over a 9-minute span to move ahead by 21 (40-19) on two Kylan Guerra (White Plains, N.Y./Archbishop Stepanic) free throws with 1:01 left in the half.
Jordan DeCicco's (Kingston, N.Y./Kingston) third and final 3-pointer of the first half, coming with 16 seconds to go, gave Philadelphia a game-high 22-point advantage (43-21). DeCicco finished the game with 22 points, 11 in each half.
Philadelphia ended up with its second-best shooting half in a half of the season as they connected at a 59.3 percent (16-of-27) clip. The Rams, led by four Kilpatrick triples as part of a 19-point night, shot 53.3 percent (8-of-15) from behind the arc. On the defensive end, the Rams held the Spartans—who came into the game shooting 50.8 percent for the season which is 14th in Division II—to 35.7 percent (10-of-28) shooting.
The second half was a complete role reversal as St. Thomas Aquinas (14-4) found its touch and knocked down 75.9 percent (22-of-29) of its attempts during the second 20 minutes, while Philadelphia connected on 37.0 percent (10-of-27) of its shots.
Despite the Spartans' hot hand, the Rams held onto the lead until 57 seconds were left and Justin Reyes made a tough shot under the basket with two Rams on him to put St. Thomas Aquinas ahead 74-73.
On the ensuing Philadelphia possession, DeCicco fired up a 3-pointer from the right wing with 29 seconds left and the shot clock winding down that bounced off the front of the rim. Kaison Randolph (Trenton, N.J./Pennington Prep) was able to grab the rebound to save the possession. With a second chance for the lead, Randolph had his 3-point attempt in the right corner blocked and the rebound fell to the Spartans.
After Shaquille McFarlan made two free throws with 3 seconds remaining to widen the gap to 76-73, Philadelphia raced the ball into the front court and called its final timeout. On the game's final possession, Kilpatrick fired up a turn-around 3-pointer that missed the mark.
Guerra finished the night with 12 points, while Randolph had 11.
Chaz Watler scored 20 points in the second half on his way to a 22-point effort to lead the Spartans. He was a perfect 9-of-9 from the field during the final 20 minutes, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
Philadelphia ended up shooting 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the field and St. Thomas Aquinas was a 56.1 percent (32-of-57) shooting team.
The Rams return to action with a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference contest against Chestnut Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m. in the Gallagher Center.