By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – Catholic University withstood an early 3-point barrage and 10-point deficit before getting untracked in a 65-58 victory over Susquehanna at DuFour Center on Wednesday night.
Freshman Jay Howard paced the Cardinals (5-2) with 21 points, and Corey Stanford added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Bryson Fonville totaled 13 points, and Kyle Phanord tallied 11 points and took two charges. Howard, Fonville and Phanord collected six rebounds apiece.
It was the Landmark Conference opener for both teams.
Howard struggled from the field (6 of 14) but made up for it by sinking a season-high 9 of 12 free throws. His follow shot with CUA clinging to a 57-52 lead with 3:21 remaining helped the Cards hold Susquehanna at bay.
The Crusaders, who hit 6 of their first 10 3-pointers, went 1-for-20 the rest of the evening.
Brandon Headley (four points) missed all seven of his 3s overall and four in the second half. Steven Weidlich, who tied Matt McGugan for the Susquehanna scoring lead with 12 points, shot 1-for-5 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes.
Jason Dietrich contributed 10 points for the Crusaders (4-1), and Weidlich had eight boards.
Had the Cardinals done better from the line (18 of 31, 58.1 percent), they could have enjoyed a larger margin of victory. But CUA Coach Steve Howes was pleased to end the night on a high note.
"We won a game where I didn't think we played very well," Howes said. "But we played good defense the last seven minutes of the first half, and the second half we finally got a little offense going.
"I was proud of our toughness."
Susquehanna used a 10-2 run to grab their biggest lead, 26-16, with 7:41 left before the break. Its final eight points of the outburst came on back-to-back 3s by Weidlich and McGugan and a Dietrich steal and layup. The advantage quickly evaporated.
The Cards scored 10 of the next 12 points to draw within 28-26 on two Howard free throws. A Stanford trey from the top of the key with the shot clock running down touched only net, and Howard converted a three-point play to give the Cardinals a 32-30 halftime lead. Stanford and Howard scored 11 points each in the first half as CUA closed the frame on a 16-4 run.
Two Phanord triples from the right side and one by Stanford out of the left corner pushed the Cardinal cushion to 49-41 with 11:27 to play. Susquehanna cut it to four before Howard blocked a McGugan shot in the lane that led to a fastbreak layup by Jeff Holland off a Fonville feed to restore CUA's eight-point lead at the 8:07 mark.
Howard, who also collected three steals, notched a pair from the charity stripe less than three minutes later for the Cards, who led 57-47. Two more foul shots from Howard's hand with 30.2 seconds to go gave CUA its largest lead of the night, 65-54.
Stanford finished 3-for-3 from 3-point land.
The Cardinals continue Landmark Conference play when they welcome Moravian College to DuFour Center on Saturday at 6 p.m.