CUA meets Scranton Saturday with tournament bid on the line

CUA meets Scranton Saturday with tournament bid on the line

WASHINGTON - After picking up its first win in the Landmark Conference Tournament, CUA looks to make history on Saturday when the Cardinals face top-seeded Scranton in the 2011 Landmark Conference championship game. The winner of this weekend's meeting will receive an automatic berth to the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals are looking to win their first-ever Landmark Conference championship and ninth conference title overall.

In a series that dates to 1934, Saturday's game between CUA and Scranton is the first with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line.

In its tournament semifinal game at Drew on Wednesday, CUA trailed by seven at halftime, but the Cardinals shot 54 percent from the floor and outscored the Rangers 48-28 in the final 20 minutes to earn a hard-fought 71-58 win on the road.  R.J. Dixon scored all 17 of his points after halftime and sophomore Shawn Holmes hit a huge 3-pointer with under two minutes to play to help seal the victory.

The Cardinals have shot a higher percentage than their opponent in 17 of 19 wins this season.  The two games in which CUA did not were at Gettysburg (Dec. 11) and on Wednesday at Drew in the tournament semifinals.

Saturday will be CUA's 13th conference championship game appearance and first since joining the Landmark Conference.  The Cardinals have gone 8-4 in their first 12 championship games, including wins in 2006 and 2007 in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC).

CUA has earned 13 NCAA Tournament bids in its history, most recently in 2007.  Since 2000, the Cardinals have made seven trips to the Big Dance.

Sophomore Chris Kearney continues to make a major impact for CUA, averaging 10.2 points on 61 percent shooting, to go along with 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in his last five games.  Kearney missed six games during the middle of the season due to injury and CUA went just 3-3 over that span.

Scranton needed overtime to get past No. 4 Merchant Marine Academy in the tourney semifinals, downing the Mariners 74-71 at home.  The Royals watched a six-point lead evaporate in the final 49 seconds of regulation, but then outscored their counterparts 8-5 in the extra session to advance to their fourth straight Landmark title game.

Luke Hawk scored a game-high 26 points in the win, and was one of four Royals in double figures, joined by Zach Ashworth, Travis Farrell and Tim Lavelle.

Scranton is 13-1 at home this season, including a perfect 7-0 mark vs. conference foes.  Overall, the Royals average a conference-best 77.2 points per game and hold their opponents to 69.2 per game.  Scranton also tops the league in made 3-pointers with 195 and 3-point percentage at 36.3.

The Royals are led by Ashworth, who on Thursday earned his second straight conference Player of the Year award, and is second in the league in scoring at 20.2 PPG.  Hawk (15.7) and Farrell (12.2) join him in double digit scoring.

For more on the 2011 Landmark Conference championship game, check out CUA's game notes.

Here is a preview of Saturday's game from the Washington Examiner.

On Thursday, two Cardinals were named first team All-Landmark Conference selections.

Saturday's contest is slated for a 7 p.m. tip.  Scranton will broadcast the game live and have live stats.