By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – It didn't have the same intensity of a Capital Athletic Conference game from the mid-2000s, but it ended the way 33 of the previous 49 meetings did – with a Catholic University victory.
Rookie Jay Howard posted his second-straight career high in points with 25, and junior Kyle Phanord hit a season-best five 3-pointers en route to 18 points to lead the Cardinals to an 87-68 dismantling of York (Pa.) College on Monday night.
The triumph, in the first round of the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic at DuFour Center, sends the Cards (7-3) into the championship game against Guilford College on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Quakers defeated the University of Southern Maine, 87-80, in the nightcap.
CUA jumped to a 14-2 lead, and Phanord – who sank all of his 3s in the first half – hit a pair back-to-back to give the Cardinals a 26-11 cushion with 8:05 to go before halftime.
As good as Phanord was from downtown, Howard was dominant down low. The 6-foot-3 swingman from Pennsauken, N.J., hit 11 of 17 from the floor and added a game-high nine rebounds.
Corey Stanford was strong inside and outside from his power forward position, going 6 of 12 overall and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. He also contributed six rebounds and four assists.
Point guard Bryson Fonville didn't do much to keep his team-leading scoring average at the 18.2 mark it was coming in by netting just four points. But he more than made up for it with seven assists (vs. one turnover) and a career-high six steals.
"Although his scoring was off tonight," CUA Coach Steve Howes said, "he was exceptional with the ball."
Fonville's thievery keyed a season-high 15-steal performance by the Cards, who forced the Spartans into 25 turnovers. The Cardinals took a 39-24 lead into halftime.
"I was really happy with how we played in the first half defensively; we were very aggressive," Howes said. "Definitely a drop off in the second half; we're disappointed in that and we've got to correct it, being an inexperienced team.
"But I'm very pleased with the way we started."
Phanord got things going right off the bat by hitting a trey, and the CUA running game produced three Fonville-assisted fastbreak layups in the opening five-and-a-half minutes. Howard punctuated two of them and Stanford one.
"We had 14 baskets in the first half and 12 were assisted," Howes said. "That's a tribute to our exceptional unselfishness tonight."
York, which defeated the visiting Cardinals in the 2005 Capital Athletic Conference championship game in Howes' first season at CUA, fell to 2-7. Brad Wesner led the Spartans with 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 4 from tripleville. Dalton Myers and Max Bell had eight points each.
Despite their high rate of turnovers, York shot 54.2 percent for the game. Its problem was it only took 48 shots, while the Cards were 31 of 64 (48.4 percent). The Cardinals scored 34 points off of Spartan miscues.
"They're a talented group," said Howes, who led CUA to consecutive CAC championships the final two years it was in the league (2005-07). "They shot well, but we turned them over and got going on the break."
Howard opened the second half with a rebound basket and scored inside to convert a three-point play. He later added a back-in jumper, all in the first two-and-a-half minutes. After Stanford rained in a 3-ball, CUA enjoyed a 51-30 bulge. The Cardinals led by at least 13 points the rest of the way.
The only downer to Howard's night was his 3-for-9 performance from the line. He entered the contest connecting on just 53.6 percent. His scoring average, however, is up to 16.9 points per game. He tallied 23 in CUA's previous game two weeks ago.
"He's a great talent and one of the most coachable kids I've ever had," Howes said. "He's just a joy to coach, and he's getting better every day."
Guilford 87, Southern Maine 80 – Matt McCarthy scored a game-high 20 points, and Jonny Rice had 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Quakers (7-2). Will Freeman scored 14 points off the bench on 7 of 11 shooting.
Jacob Littlefield paced the Huskies with 18 points, five boards and four assists. Zach Leal had 13 points, Cole Libby 12 and Sean Caddigan 11.
Southern Maine (3-5) will play York in the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic consolation game at 5 p.m.