By Chris McManes
Catholic University Coach Steve Howes wasn't too happy with his team 11 days ago.
He is now.
Bryson Fonville scored a career-high 33 points and played turnover-free ball for 40 minutes to lead CUA to a 78-63 victory over Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., on Wednesday night. He was 13 of 21 from the field and hit all seven of his free throws.
"Bryson was amazing and further validates my claim that he is one of the best point guards in the country," Howes said. "But this was a complete team effort, especially on the defensive end, against a very talented team."
In winning their fourth straight, the first-place Cardinals improved to 9-5 and 3-0 in the Landmark Conference. The Eagles, who lost at the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center for the first time in nine tries, fell to 11-3 and 2-1.
It was the teams' first meeting since the Cards downed Juniata for the 2013 Landmark championship, 63-62.
Corey Stanford added 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds for CUA. Steve Limberiou had 10 points and three blocks, and Louis Khouri tallied 11 points in a reserve role. Fonville also recorded four assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals.
"I'm incredibly proud of the focus and toughness we displayed tonight," Howes said.
Jeremy Hays sank 8 of 12 shots and led the Eagles with 23 points. Kevin Stapleton had 12 points and five rebounds, and Lucas Mellott accounted for six points, seven boards and four assists.
A Stapleton layup gave the hosts their largest lead of the night, 21-16, with 7:48 left in the first half. After Fonville converted two free throws, Khouri scored nine of the Cards' next 13 points. His 3-pointer made it 31-28, Cardinals, with 3:04 to go before halftime. CUA went into the break with a 35-32 lead.
Ahead 47-44 with 13:53 to play, the Cards embarked on a 14-5 run to seize command, 61-49. Fonville produced the first nine points of the flurry and the final two. Limberiou buried a triple at the 8:28 mark and CUA led by double digits the rest of the way. Its final six points came from the line to punctuate a 19 of 23 (82.6 percent) charity-stripe performance.
The Cardinals made 52.6 percent of their shots and held Juniata to 4 of 19 from long distance. Since losing in the first round of its own tournament, 62-56, to SUNY Cortland on Jan. 4, CUA is unbeaten. Two of the wins have come on the road.
"We started the year an inexperienced bunch but learned a lot playing a brutally tough schedule," Howes said. "Since we came back from Christmas break we have continually improved, and the players have embraced their roles."
The Cardinals host Moravian College (7-7, 2-2) at DuFour Center on Saturday at 4 p.m.