The College of Staten Island men’s basketball squad built up a sizable lead early, then saw it evaporate only to hang on late to hold off Hunter College, 95-87, as part of CUNYAC play in Manhattan this evening.  The win kept the Dolphins undefeated CUNYAC record intact, as they extended to 7-0 while advancing to 9-6 overall.  The Hawks fell to 6-9, 4-3, respectively.

CSI led the entire way in the first half, getting off to a tremendous start in the opening five minutes.  Kevon Murphy and Khaleeq Baum dominated on the entire to score CSI’s first seven points to stake the visitors to a 7-0 lead and after Hunter nailed a three, the Dolphins then went on a 16-2 run over the game’s next three minutes.  Murphy added four more buckets in the run and Frank Schettino banked in a pair of shots, including a three to put CSI comfortably ahead, 23-5.

Hunter did manage to cut into the lead, getting it to 33-22 with 8:18 to go thanks to a Matt Franks three-point play.  The Hawks were able to cut the lead to just eight on a Mamadou Sakho three, but CSI came alive from there, going on another 17-6 run, highlighted by a Robert Rossiter three and two more buckets from Baum.  That helped stake CSI to what would be a 47-32 halftime advantage.

Before Hunter staged its second half comeback attack, CSI put more distance between the sides in the second stanza.  Baum would score four straight for the Dolphins to give CSI a commanding 54-33 lead two minutes into the half and it appeared the Dolphins were well on their way to victory, but HC had other ideas.

Five-straight points by Danny Fusco ignited an 11-2 HC run, cutting the lead to a more manageable 11 points.  After trading baskets for a handful of minutes, Hunter made their definitive move at the 10 minute mark.  Down 11, the Hawks staged a 16-4 rally, started by another Sakho three and aided along the way by two Benny DiMirco baskets.

Another Fusco three gave the Hawks a 78-77 lead with 4:44 left, but CSI’s Schettino responded by going the length of the court and converting a short jumper in the lane to give CSI back the lead on the ensuing possession, and this time, CSI would not surrender the lead again.

DiMirco free-throws got HC back to within one with 2:57 to go, 81-80, but Schettino hit on another lay-in, and then after a three-point miss, Khaleeq Baum converted on Schettino’s 10th assist to put CSI up, 85-80 with a hair over two minutes to play.  From there, CSI was crisp at the free-throw line to lock things up.  As Hunters’s shots fell off their mark, the Dolphins went 10-14 from the stripe in the final two minutes to win their seventh straight conference game to open the season.

Schettino, who logged the only the fifth triple-double in NCAA Division III in his last outing, fell just one rebound short of doing it again tonight, finalizing with 23 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds.  Baum was the team’s leading point-getter with 25 points on 10-12 shooting, also finishing with 9 rebounds.  Junior Kevon Murphy finished with 20 points on 8-9 shooting from the floor.  HC was led by Gio Gabbidon’s 23 points, 14 of which came at the free-throw line.  Matt Franks finished with 22 points and tied for the team lead with five rebounds.

CSI possessed a 37-29 rebounding edge and forced 19 Hunter turnovers.   Both teams shot well, with the Dolphins going 54.5% (30-55) and the Hawks going an even 50% (27-54).

The Dolphins will now get set to play defending CUNYAC-Champions Brooklyn College on Saturday at 3pm at the Sports & Recreation Center.