Strong second half sends CUA into championship game

Strong second half sends CUA into championship game

MADISON, N.J. – CUA will play for the Landmark Conference title after the Cardinals unleashed a terrific second half effort on Wednesday evening to down Drew 71-58 in the tournament semifinals.  CUA (19-7) shot 54 percent from the floor and outscored the Rangers 48-28 in the final 20 minutes to advance to the Landmark championship for the first time in program history. 

CUA trailed 30-23 at halftime but the Cardinals were a different team in the second half, scoring the first seven points, including back-to-back dunks by sophomore Chris Kearney to tie things at 30 with 17:03 to play.

Following a Terrell Brown basket that put the Rangers up two CUA's R.J. Dixon sank a 3-pointer to give the Cardinals their first lead since midway through the first half.  Andy Roell then drilled a three on CUA's next possession and the Cardinals were on top 36-34 with 15:11 on the clock.

Another pair of 3-pointers by Dixon followed by layups from Dixon and classmate Jason Banzhaf allowed CUA to open up an eight-point advantage with 12:26 to go in the game.

Senior Brian Baker hit a three of his own with ten minutes remaining to again give CUA an eight-point lead and after Kearney scored an old fashioned three-point play the Cardinals were on top by nine, 54-45.

Drew closed to within six on Brown's bucket at the 3:52 mark, but after the ball switched hands several times Holmes drilled a huge 3-pointer from the right corner to make the score 64-55 and all but seal this one.

The Cardinals then sank 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:18 to wrap up the impressive road win and move CUA into this weekend's championship.

Dixon and Holmes finished with 17 points apiece to lead CUA, while Banzhaf added 15 and Kearney scored 11.  Kearney also pulled down 11 rebounds for a double-double and Banzhaf totaled seven.  The Cardinals hit nine 3-pointers with Holmes sinking all four of his attempts and Dixon led CUA with six assists.  Holmes' four 3-pointers tied the Landmark Conference Tournament record.

After shooting 45 percent in the first half Drew dipped to 31 percent in the second.  Asmar Capers scored a game-high 18 points for the Rangers but he shot just 4 of 18 from the field. 

CUA led for the opening eight minutes of the game until Brown got to the hoop for a layup to tie the score at nine.  Derek Puhaliski then gave the lead back to CUA with a jumper, but Capers buried a three down the other end to put the Rangers on top for the first time, 12-11.

Mike Mayes' jumper at the 5:40 mark put Drew on top by eight and Dylan Bulger's layup a minute later again made it an eight-point game.

Holmes hit a shot from beyond the arc with 48 seconds remaining to pull CUA within four, but Bobby Falconiero sank a three of his own with only six ticks to go which sent the Rangers into halftime holding a 30-23 lead.

With its win on Wednesday CUA advances to its eighth conference title game in the last 11 seasons, its 10th in the last 14 seasons and its first since joining the Landmark Conference prior to the 2007-08 season.  Head Coach Steve Howes will be coaching in his fourth conference championship, having won a pair in 2006 and 2007.

On Saturday, CUA and top-seeded Scranton will meet for the third straight season in the Landmark Conference Tournament as those two battle it out for the 2011 conference title in Pennsylvania.  Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.