Captains Hang On To Beat N.C. Wesleyan, 73-71
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- The Captains righted the ship tonight, shaking off it's fourth loss of the season and bouncing back with a tough, hard-fought victory against N.C. Wesleyan College, 73-71. CNU (17-4, 8-0) led by as many as 19 points in the second half, but the Captains needed to escape a late rally by the Bishops (9-10, 3-4) to earn it's13th win in 14 games.
It was the 100th game of senior Conley Taylor's career, and also the 100th career victory for head coach John Krikorian. Taylor is now just six points shy of joining the Captains' Top Five all-time scoring list, and Krikorian improves to 100-55 (.645) in his career as a head coach. The Captains guide is 35-13 (.729) at Christopher Newport.
The win would not come easy for Krikorian, as the visiting team would outscore the Captains 45-34 in the second half. Despite the late comeback effort that saw the Bishops tie things up twice in the final 5:17, the CNU defense held strong and would did not give up the lead, hanging on for the win.
Taylor scored 24 points in his 100th game, including 13 in the first half on 6-of-11 shooting. He led the Captains to a 13-point lead at the break, 39-26, as CNU shot 48.3% from the field as a team (14-29). On the other end, Wesleyan managed to hit just 10-of-38 shots in the first half for a 26.3% shooting percentage.
Out of the locker room, it appeared the CNU offense had taken control, as freshman Nik Biberaj scored on the first three possessions to increase the lead to 17. After a pair of free-throws from Taylor and a fast-break jumper off a steal by Jon Snead, the Captains lead was 19, sporting a game-best 49-30 advantage just 1:49 into the second half.
Quickly, though, the Bishops ripped off a 16-1 run of their own over the next 3:10, pulling back within just two possessions at 50-46 with 15:01 remaining. Senior Matt Dougherty's lone bucket of the contest punctuated the run with an open court dunk off a turnover.
Biberaj finally stopped the run for CNU with his fourth bucket of the second half, and CNU got four straight free-throws from Taylor and Mike Cherry to re-take a 10-point lead with 13:01 to go. But the big advantage was short-lived, as the Bishops scored six straight and the lead would not reach double-digits again.
The visitors stormed all the way back to tie the game at 67 on a free-throw by Domarius Thomas with 5:19 remaining, but another Bishops turnover turned into a fast-break layup for Taylor. Devin Nichols tied things again, at 71 apiece with 2:17 remaining, but senior Loren Farris stepped up on the defensive end with a big blocked shot that Taylor rebounded and went coast-to-coast for the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning bucket with 1:36 remaining.
Farris added another rejection at the 1:05 mark, the last of his career-high five blocks, as he led the defensive stand. N.C. Wesleyan was 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line in the final 1:08. With six seconds remaining, Alex Murray grabbed a rebound and got up the floor with time to shoot, but lost the handle and time expired before the Bishops could get a shot off.
Taylor's 24 points were a game-high, while Biberaj added 14, with 12 coming in the second half. The rookie center added three blocks and five rebounds while knocking down 7-of-10 shots. Snead rounded out the double figure scorers with 11, and rookie reserve Adam Otey had six points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Captains return to action with a big conference game this Sunday, February 5, as they take on Ferrum College on Super Bowl Sunday. The game is set to tip at 4:00 pm.