CUA rides strong second half to thrilling win over Mariners

CUA rides strong second half to thrilling win over Mariners

WASHINGTON – Up two with 0.7 seconds remaining, CUA forced Merchant Marine Academy's Tom Izzo into a tough three-pointer that was off the mark at the buzzer and the Cardinals hung on for an exciting 66-64 victory over the Mariners on Saturday.  CUA rode the hot hand of R.J. Dixon in the second half, with the senior scoring 20 of his game-high 26 points in the final 20 minutes. 

CUA led 63-57 with 56 seconds to play in the game before Richard Roach hit a pair of free throws to make it a four-point game.  CUA's Shawn Holmes then hit one of two at the line to put the Cardinals back up by five, but Reed Buck came down the other end and hit a long three to pull the Mariners to within 64-62.

Holmes was fouled and again hit one of two at the stripe to make it a three-point game with 27 seconds to play.

On the ensuing possession the Mariners worked the ball around until Denver Effland got it down low and powered his way to the hoop for a layup.  CUA's Chris Kearney fouled Effland on the shot, giving Merchant Marine Academy a chance to tie the game with 18 ticks to play.

Effland wound up missing the free throw, Kearney skied for the rebound and he was fouled.  The CUA sophomore then headed to the foul line where he made one of two to make the score 66-64 in favor of the Cardinals.

Merchant Marine Academy then had a chance to either tie the game and send it to overtime, or win it with a three-pointer.  As the seconds ticked off the clock the ball eventually found its way to Effland again, but he missed two shots from down low and after the ball was knocked out of bounds, it appeared as though CUA had won.  But following a huddle by the officials the Mariners were awarded the ball, with 0.7 seconds placed on the clock.

The teams then took back-to-back timeouts, and following the stoppage the Mariners had one final play to run.  Izzo got the ball on the left wing behind the three-point line and let fly, but his contested shot hit nothing but air, sending the Cardinals to a season sweep of the Mariners.

Dixon scored his 26 points on 10 of 21 shooting, including a trio of 3-pointers, while classmate Jason Banzhaf scored 18 points on 7 of 13 field goals.  The Cardinals shot an even 50 percent in the second half, after knocking down only 37 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

Led by Buck's 21 points, the Mariners bench tallied 34 points on the afternoon.  Matt Hueber also hit for double figures with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting and he led the Mariners in rebounding with six. 

The Cardinals trailed for the entire first half, but a late 11-3 run capped by Banzhaf's 3-pointer with 1:08 on the clock brought CUA within one, 28-27, at intermission.

CUA then wasted little time taking its first lead of the day when Dixon splashed a jumper 1:41 into the second half to make it 29-28.      

Holmes' jumper at the 15:47 mark gave CUA its largest lead up to that point at 37-30, but the Mariners chipped away and got to within two a little over two minutes later.

Kevin Kerr's 3-pointer with 8:24 remaining gave the lead back to the Mariners at 47-46, but Banzhaf answered down the other end to give CUA a one-point advantage.  The Cardinals then added to their lead by scoring nine of the next 13 points to open up a 59-51 lead with 3:16 to play.

CUA will close out its regular season on Saturday, February 19 when the Cardinals welcome Goucher to the DuFour Center for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.