Captains Clinch Regular Season Title; Beat Ferrum 85-78
FERRUM, Va. -- Christopher Newport University clinched the 2012 USA South Athletic Conference Regular Season championship today, securing the top seed in the conference tournament with an 85-78 victory at Ferrum College (13-9, 6-4). CNU improves to 18-4 overall and 9-0 in the USA South, led by the return of sophomore Tra Benefield and a big night from senior Conley Taylor.
Benefield, who missed the last four and a half games due to an ankle injury, returned in dominant fashion, scoring 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Taylor, who missed the bulk of practice this week due to illness, was stellar, scoring a game-high 27 points. In Taylor passed Buck Moore and moved into the Top Five all-time in scoring at CNU, with 1,698 career points.
The Captains turned an eight-point halftime deficit around in the second half, led primarily by Benefield and Taylor. The two scored just 11 first half points combined, but had seven of the first nine out of the locker room as CNU pulled back within one, 48-47, with 17:38 remaining.
CNU took the lead minutes later, and kept the pressure up, getting the lead to a game-high nine points with 8:29 remaining. Benefield hit a three to cap a big 14-2 run over a five minute stretch in the middle of the half to lead 68-59.
The Captains maintained a two-possession lead for the next seven and a half minutes, but a long jumper from Daryl Hart with 59 seconds remaining pulled Ferrum within three, 81-78. After a miss by CNU on the other end, Ferrum had a chance to pull within one, but missed a pair of layups and was forced to foul.
Rookie Bobby Freedman knocked down both free-throws for his only points of the night to give CNU a five-point edge with just five seconds remaining. A steal and layup by Taylor as the buzzer expired sealed the win and the final score, 85-78.
Taylor's 27 points came on 10-of-16 shooting and he added five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Benefield was 8-of-10 in his return from injury, finishing with 19 points and five rebounds. Rookie Nik Biberaj finished the game with 13 points, six boards and three assists.
Ferrum had four players in double figures, led by senior guard Marcus Mayo with 19 points and eight assists. Lamont King finished with 18 points and six rebounds.
The Captains are off until next weekend, when they host Greensboro College at 4:00 pm on Saturday, February 11. It is part of a conference doubleheader in the Freeman Center, and is also Academic Recognition Night.