By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – Catholic University was looking good early in the second half of its game against St. Vincent College on Monday afternoon.
It wasn't at game's end.
The Cardinals squandered a 10-point lead and allowed 53 second-half points in a 78-67 loss to the Bearcats at Carey Center in Latrobe, Pa. Pat Jones scored 16 points and Sean Kett 15 in leading St. Vincent to its fifth straight victory.
CUA freshman Jay Howard posted the second double-double of his young career with 10 rebounds and a career-high 23 points. Bryson Fonville chipped in 17 points, four rebounds and five assists. Corey Stanford, from nearby Harrison City, Pa., had 10 points, eight boards and two steals.
Both teams, which hadn't played since Dec. 6 because of final exams, now stand 6-3.
The Cardinals built a 33-25 lead at halftime and extended it to 41-31 on a three-point play by Stanford. Kett duplicated Stanford's feat soon thereafter to spawn a 12-0 run and give the Bearcats a 43-41 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish. The Cards missed three shots during the run and Fonville committed two of his three turnovers.
When SVC concluded what became a 21-2 outburst, it led 52-43 with 10:54 remaining. CUA trimmed the margin to 54-48 on a Fonville layup, but the Bearcats answered with consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 60-50 at the 7:32 mark. The Cardinal deficit climbed to as high as 15 points.
CUA Coach Steve Howes didn't mince words in describing his disappointment as the game wore on.
"I was thrilled with our toughness in the first half and how much defensive pride we had. It was arguably our best half of basketball this season," Howes said. "Then it seemed like the Grinch stole my team instead of Christmas and we delivered our softest performance of the year."
"Hopefully we realize that defense wins championships, not personal stats."
St. Vincent outshot the Cardinals in all three phases: 50 to 45.9 percent overall, 40 to 25 percent on 3-pointers and 75 to 41.2 percent on free throws. The Bearcats outscored CUA 53-34 in the second half on 18 of 29 shooting, including 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.
Kett and Jaylon Bell (nine points, four assists, three steals) paced SVC on the boards with seven apiece.
The Cardinals are off for two weeks until resuming action against former Capital Athletic Conference rival York (Pa.) in the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic at DuFour Center on Dec. 29 at 5 p.m.
Guilford and Southern Maine round out the 28th-annual event field.