CNU Captures USA South Championship Over Greensboro, 82-72
NEWPORT NEWS, VA- The Christopher Newport men's basketball team is heading to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in the program's history. CNU defeated the Pride of Greensboro College Sunday, 82-72, in the USA South Championship game at the Freeman Center.
"It feels great to be champions," Head Coach John Krikorian said following the triumph. "We took care of business in the second half...our kids really worked hard this year and now we're going to look ahead for more good things to come."
It's the 14th conference title for Christopher Newport, and the Captains will be making their 18th trip to the NCAA tournament. CNU will find out who, where, and when they are playing on Monday at 12 noon when the NCAA releases the Division III bracket.
The Captains trailed Sunday by six at the half, 31-25, and never held the lead until the 14:30 mark of the second half when they pulled ahead 38-37. CNU ended up out-scoring Greensboro by a 57-41 margin in the second half as the Captains shot 83% from the field (19 of 23).
CNU went on a 17-0 run in the early second half to open up the lead. The Captains never fell behind again after taking the 38-37 lead.
Freshman Nik Biberaj and sophomore Tra Benefield led the way with 19 points each, with most of the damage being done in the second half. Biberaj scored 17 of his 19 in the second half, and Benefield scored 17 of his 19 after halftime. Biberaj and Benefield were selected to the all-tournament team for their efforts.
Senior Conley Taylor, the USA South Player of the Year, was selected the tournament MVP after scoring 15 points and pulling down 6 rebounds on Sunday. Taylor went over the 1,800 point mark for his career, 4th on the all-time scoring list.
Also on the all-tournament team were Luqman Tijani and Devonta Davis of Greensboro and Avery Green of Shenandoah.
"Greensboro did a lot of really good things against us," Krikorian continued. "We expected to be challenged today and they gave us all we could handle. We finally got it going offensively in the second half...it was a great team effort."
The championship is the first for Krikorian in only his second season guiding the Captains. He now has an overall record of 41-13 (.759) at CNU.
Greensboro was led by Tijani's 19 points. The Pride finishes the season with an 18-10 record.
CNU's 23 wins marks the highest win total since the Captains went 24-5 in the 2002-2003 season. Christopher Newport will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, C.J. Woollum's final year as head coach.
The NCAA bracket will be released Monday at 12 noon. The online selection show can be viewed at www.NCAA.com