Biberaj Leads No. 17 Captains Past Maryville, 79-71

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Powered by the dominant inside presence of Nik Biberaj, the 17th-ranked Christopher Newport men's basketball improved to 13-2 overall with a 79-71 win over Maryville. The Captains retake sole possession of first place in the USA South with a 6-1 record against league opponents. Biberaj grabbed 16 rebounds to go with his 24 points, his third 20+ point effort in the last four games; both were game-highs. 

Both teams held double-figure leads in the physical battle, as Maryville surged out to a 10-point lead in the first half and after a tie game at halftime, CNU blasted out of the locker room with 11 straight points in under two minutes. The game was much closer than the double-figure leads would suggest, as score was tied 10 times and the lead swapped hands 12 times throughout.

The Captains struggled from the floor to start the game, and fell behind 14-4 eight minutes into the game. CNU was just 2-for-16 to start the game, but the Fighting scots were unable to pull away. Instead, the Captains outscored Maryville by ten the rest of the way, 24-14, and tied the game at 28 points apiece heading into halftime. Biberaj foreshadowed what would be a dominant second half with eight points and six rebounds in the first half to lead the way for CNU. 

The second half began with an administrative technical foul, getting CNU started on an 11-0 run out of the locker room. Tra Benefield hit both free-throws and then knocked down three straight buckets for the Captains to go on a personal 8-0 run. Then, Biberaj hit a tough contested layup and drew the foul for an old-fashioned three-point play and the Captains' biggest lead of the game, 39-28. 

Maryvill responded with a 12-2 run of their own to re-take the lead, 42-41 led by five points each from Jethro Griffin and Oscar Butler. Over 14 minutes still remained as both offenses began to hit some shots. The game remained at least a two-possession game for most of the rest of the game as both teams battled in the back-and-forth affair. Jaumonee Byrd hit a free-throw with 12:27 left for a three-point lead, erased by the Captains' first three-pointer of the game out of the hands of Jon Snead. CNU then built the lead to six, on two separate occasions, but Maryville again erased the lead and tied the game at 60 on five straight points by Christian Ford.

That was when Biberaj and Benefield took over. Benefield hit a three-pointer from the wing and then knocked down a fast-break jumper for a 65-60 lead. Rookie D.J. Roberson found Biberaj on a back-door cut for the next bucket; he would hit two more layups on the next three CNU possessions to give the Captains a 73-66 advantage with 1:43 left. Solid free-throw shooting down the stretch (6-for-8 from three different players) saw the Captains hold on for a 79-71 win. 

Biberaj had a terrific second stanza, posting a double-double after halftime. He finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds, leading the way, knocking down 10-of-16 attempts from the field. Benefield finished with 19 points and seven boards, moving into 22nd all-time on the Captains scoring list. He now has 1,102 career points, just five shy of Mark Blasingame and six points out of the Top 20. 

CNU will next host Averett Unviersity (7-8, 3-3), coming off a big 88-74 win at N.C. Wesleyan, on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. Live stats and a live video webcast will be available at