Cardinals tip-off regular season with pair of tough tests

Cardinals tip-off regular season with pair of tough tests

WASHINGTON – After opening its season with an exhibition at nearby Division I foe George Washington two weeks ago, the CUA men's basketball team is set to begin the regular season this weekend.  The Cardinals are headed to Owings Mills, Md. to compete in the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic, hosted by Stevenson University.  CUA faces a pair of tough tests in No. 16 Transylvania and No. 19 St. Mary's.

CUA is coming off a year in which it won 19 games and advanced to the championship of the ECAC Tournament.  The Cardinals have won at least 18 games in each of the last four seasons and qualified for the postseason each time as well.

The Cardinals' offense was strong in 2011-12, averaging a Landmark Conference-leading 77.1 points per game.  CUA scored at least 80 points 11 times, and went over the century mark twice.

Leading the way for the Cards are their trio of senior captains, Shawn Holmes, Nate Koenig and Chris Kearney.  Holmes led CUA in scoring a season ago and was named an All-Conference selection.  The Baltimore native enters his final season with 827 career points.

Koenig was one of the top free throw shooters in the country last year, knocking down 95.7% at the charity stripe.  With him leading the way, CUA ranked 14th in the country in FT shooting, at 75.8%.

Kearney has led the Cardinals in blocked shots in each of the last three seasons, including 42 last year.  He enters his senior season with 151 career blocks and is currently on pace to move into the top-three in school history. 

CUA begins its weekend on Friday evening when the Cardinals take on a tough Transylvania team out of Lexington, Ky.  The Pioneers went 23-5 a season ago, won the Heartland Conference and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Four starters and 10 letterwinners return this season, led by last year's conference Player of the Year Ethan Spurlin.

Other returners include Brandon Rash, Tate Cox and Barrett Meyer, with Spurlin, Rash and Meyer each averaging double figures a season ago.

Friday's game tips-off at 7 p.m. and there will be live video and stats.

CUA's second nationally ranked opponent in as many days will be the No. 19 Seahawks of St. Mary's College.  SMC went 20-8 a season ago and captured their fourth consecutive Capital Athletic Conference crown with a 13-3 league mark.

Devin Spencer is the team's leading returning scorer at 11.5 points per game, while Chris Hutchinson (9.3 ppg), Jeff Haus (8.8 ppg) and Brendan McFall (7.6 ppg) also return.

Saturday's contest between the Cardinals and Seahawks will get going at 6 p.m.  Links for live video and stats can be found here.

On Thursday, the Landmark Conference announced its preseason poll and CUA received 38 points, tying with Susquehanna for third.  Defending champion Scranton was picked atop the poll with 62 points, followed by Juniata with 44 points, and CUA and Susquehanna in third.

Merchant Marine Academy with 28 points was fifth in the poll, followed by Moravian with 26 and Drew and Goucher with 10 points each.

2012-13 Landmark Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Poll
School, Points (# first place votes)
1. Scranton, 62 (5)
2. Juniata, 44 (2)
3. Catholic, 38 (1)
Susquehanna, 38
5. Merchant Marine Academy, 28
6. Moravian, 26
7. Drew, 10
Goucher, 10