Focused Cardinals Win 15th Straight, Clinch Landmark Regular-Season Crown

Focused Cardinals Win 15th Straight, Clinch Landmark Regular-Season Crown

By Chris McManes

WASHINGTON – Soon after discussing his team's 19th victory Wednesday night, Davidson Coach Bob McKillop was informed that his season-opening opponent, Catholic University, improved to 21-3.

McKillop got a big smile on his face and said, "I love those guys."

CUA Coach Steve Howes feels the same way about his Cardinals, who became the first team in the program's 104-year history to go 15-0 in conference play. The Cards continued running roughshod over Landmark Conference foes with a 75-60 victory at Juniata.

CUA, ranked 14th in the nation, led for the final 37½ minutes of the game played at Memorial Gym in Huntingdon, Pa. It has won 15 in a row and not lost in 2015.

"I was impressed with our intensity for the entire 40 minutes," said Howes, who has guided the Cardinals to six 20-win seasons in his 11 years in Brookland. "We were as focused and locked in as we have been all year."

The Cards have clinched the Landmark regular-season championship with a game to go at second-place Scranton (19-5, 13-2). CUA will host a conference tournament semifinal Wednesday Feb. 25 at DuFour Center. If it wins, it will return to Franny Murray Court for the league championship game Saturday Feb. 28.

Pennsylvania native Corey Stanford led the Cardinals with 24 points, six rebounds and four steals. Jay Howard contributed 16 points and a game-high seven boards. Bryson Fonville had 12 points along with four rebounds and six assists.

Marcus Lee paced the Eagles with 16 points and three blocks. Trevor Clune scored 14 points and collected a team-high six rebounds.

CUA, showing no rust since it's last game seven days ago, bolted to a 17-4 lead and went into the break on top 38-25. Its torrid first-half shooting (65 percent) continued, and the Cards went on to succeed on 27 of 45 shots (60 percent). They were downright scorching in the bonus sphere, going 10 of 12. Stanford made all four of his treys, and Kyle Phanord was 3 of 4.

"This was our most efficient offense of the season," Howes said. "We took a lot of high-percentage shots by the right guys in the right spots."

The Cardinals aim to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years. Their 15-game winning streak is the fourth-longest in school history. They eclipsed the 14 consecutive the 2003-04 Cards won in Mike Lonergan's final season at CUA and the 14 the 1985-86 squad won under Jack Bruen.

"We aren't focused on history," Howes said. "That's for the postseason. We just want to keep improving and be great in the moment."

Lonergan, whose George Washington club lost to McKillop's crew this evening, is proud of the accomplishments of his alma mater. He was a sophomore on Bruen's '85-86 team that went 19-8 and won the ECAC South Region championship.

"It was a special group we had that season, and we beat some very good teams during our winning streak," said Lonergan, whose 1997-98 squad posted a 14-0 record in the Capital Athletic Conference. "My teammates have remained some of my best friends to this day." 

Howes also has a special group of players this season: "I credit our captains" – twins Kevin and Kyle Phanord – "for setting the tone and the rest of the team for following their lead."