By Jimmy Cassidy
The men’s basketball team at Catholic University began its defense of the Landmark Conference crown on Saturday, December 3rd, with a win over the Rangers of Drew University, 84-81. In a game that featured 9 ties and 14 lead changes, the Cardinals were the ones to come out on top in front of their home crowd at the Raymond A. DuFour Center. The victory gives Catholic a 1-0 conference record to begin Landmark play, and their current record now stands at 5-1.
The high-scoring contest called for proficient scorers from both teams, and Catholic’s two main leaders came up big to lead the attack. Senior sharpshooter Louis Khouri led all scorers in the game with 27 points. All six of the shots he knocked down came from behind the three-point line, and he also got it done behind another line, the free throw charity stripe, shooting 9-11.
Junior Landmark pick for player of the year Jay Howard followed close behind with 24 points on the evening. Drew had no answer for the 6’3 forward all game long, so the best it could do was foul him. Howard attempted 21 free throws, converting 16 of the attempts. In addition to 4-9 shooting, Howard also added 7 rebounds and 7 assists to contribute a great sum to the CUA offensive effort. Sophomore forward Andrew Wade came up just short of a double-double in the game, finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds against the Rangers.
As they have all season, Howard and Khouri shouldered most of the weight to put up numbers for Catholic. They average 19.3 and 17.5 points, respectively, so far this season, and will likely be called upon to do more of the same as conference play progresses. Without the likes of the now-graduated Bryson Fonville and Kevin and Kyle Phanord in the backcourt, coach Steve Howes and his squad will have to look to other outlets for scoring and leadership.
There are a number of players who look to fill those roles this year to make another run at winning the Landmark Conference. They include freshmen Brandon Easton and Ross Gerber, sophomores Wade, Jimmy Golaszewski, and Andre Mitchell, and juniors Billy Barnes, Jeff Holland, and Matt McKinnon. Mitchell and Easton have alternated time at the guard position, while Golaszewski recently impressed with a 21-point performance off the bench in a win over DeSales College.
CUA battled all evening long to get the best of Drew. The Rangers shot an impressive 58% from the field and held the advantage in points in the paint, 36-22, and bench points, 28-4. The only true category Catholic had the upper hand in was free throws, as they shot 27-35 compared to Drew’s 9-14 on the night. The visitors, though, carried a slim 44-40 lead into halftime, led for most of the second half, but never got out in front of the Cards by more than five points. Catholic lurked throughout the game, and kept it close to make a late run in the second half.
With just under two minutes in the second half of play, Drew knocked down consecutive shots to go up 81-77. Mitchell answered with 1:24 to play with a layup to bring the lead back down to two. A game of strategy ensued as Drew called timeout with little time left to draw up a play. Coach Howes won the battle as the defense forced a turnover and called a timeout of their own to stop the clock. With 40 seconds left, the ball went to the top of the paint to Howard, who drew multiple defenders. Howard kicked it out to Khouri who took the shot from deep. The three-pointer was good, and Catholic took a 82-81 lead with 30 seconds to play.
A final defensive stop allowed the Cardinals to seal the win with some free throws. The team was victorious in its first Landmark action, by a final score of 84-81.
The team will be back in action on Saturday, December 10th, in an away game against Neumann College at 5 PM. CUA’s next Landmark action does not come until 2017, as the squad is set to take on Elizabethtown on Wednesday, January 11th. In between, though, Catholic will host the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic during the weekend after Christmas, on December 28th and 29th.