CNU Wraps Up Undefeated USA South Season With 99-95 Win Over Averett
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Senior guard Conley Taylor saved one of his best career performances for his final regular season home game, as he led the Christopher Newport Captains (21-4, 12-0) to an undefeated USA South season with an 99-95 victory over Averett University (7-18, 2-10). Taylor scored a season-high 36 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and, for good measure, added four assists and three blocks.
CNU wrapped up the perfect conference season in the win, going 12-0 against league opponents. It is just the fourth time in USA South history a team has gone undefeated in league play, three times by the Captains. The last time it happened was when CNU posted a 12-0 mark in 1997-98.
The Captains will be the top seed in next week's USA South Athletic Conference Tournament, and gets a first-round bye through to the semifinals. CNU will host either #4 Ferrum or #5 Methodist in the USA South Tournament Semifinals next Friday, February 24.
In Saturday's win over the Cougars, the Captains shot 49.2% from the field in the game, going 32-65 including a 12-28 performance from beyond the arc. Taylor dropped three triples en route to his season-high performance.
Averett led at halftime, 43-42, behind an inspired guard play. Rookie Sunil Ram had seven points, four rebounds and three assists in the first half, while Jeremy Ruffin and Grant Chandler each hit a pair of three's to lead the team in scoring with 10 points each.
The Cougars hit for 45.7% in the first half, while the Captains poured in 43.8% of their shots. Taylor went 4-7 from the field and knocked down all five free-throws to finish the half with 15, while rookies Mike Cherry and Nik Biberaj added eight points each.
In the second half, it was senior Jacob Capin, making his first appearance of the season after suffering a pre-season injury, that sparked the Captains offense. Capin hit long three-pointers from the left side on back-to-back possessions to give CNU its biggest cushion of the night, a seven-point lead with 16:38 to go, 54-47.
CNU kept pushing on offense, building the lead to a game-high 15 points with 9:05 remaining on a tough turnaround jumper off the glass by Biberaj. The bucket made it 79-64 in favor of the Captains.
Averett, though, would not go away, posting an 11-2 run to pull back within six on a jumper by Grant Chandler, 81-75. The Captains answered right back with a three from Cherry and three free-throws to re-take a 12-point lead, 87-75 with 4:11 remaining.
Timely three-point shooting an efficiency from the free-throw line got Averett back into down the stretch, but the Captains also hit their free-throws and held off the Cougars in the final minute.
The fast-paced game saw CNU hold a 21-12 advantage in fast-break points, and a 17-13 edge on points off turnovers.
Four players were in double figures for the Cougars, led by a double-double from Jonathan Setters, with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Setters had eight offensive rebounds. Ruffin had 19, Chandler 17 and Ram finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Taylor, playing in his Senior Day game, was the clear leader for CNU, knocking down 10-of-18 shots and adding a perfect 13-for-13 performance from the free-throw line. Cherry added 17 off the bench with three triples, and Biberaj added a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds.
The USA South Tournament first round will be played Tuesday and the Captains will find out their opponent for Friday's semifinal game.