By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – Catholic University didn't play like the nation's 23rd-ranked team at the beginning of the game Wednesday night. It sure did at the end.
The Cardinals, ranked in the Top 25 this week for the first time in two years, rallied from a 12-point first-half deficit to slip past Elizabethtown (Pa.) 68-65 on Franny Murray Court at DuFour Center.
Corey Stanford paced the victors with 19 points, and Jay Howard had 16. Bryson Fonville delivered 10 assists and scored 16 points, including the 1,000th of his brilliant career. The win was the Cards' 12th straight and improves their record to 18-3 and 12-0 in the Landmark Conference.
After the Blue Jays went on a late 14-4 run to level the contest at 64, Fonville went to work. First he regained a loose ball, dribbled from the baseline back toward the lane and found Howard open at the free throw line. Howard took one dribble and scored on a left-handed layup to put CUA up for good with less than 30 seconds to play.
E-Town cut it to 66-65 on a Tommy James free throw, and Louis Khouri cemented the Cardinal triumph by sinking 2 of 4 free throws, the final one with 4 seconds to go.
"That game was pure survive and advance," CUA Coach Steve Howes said. "We did not play to our standard for 40 minutes but were tough when it mattered most."
Tyler Simkiss led the Blue Jays (8-12, 6-6 Landmark) with 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting before fouling out. Lee Eckert was 7-for-11 and finished with 15 points. The pair helped E-Town shoot 56 percent (27 of 48) from the field.
The Cards, outrebounded 33-29, shot 45 percent from the floor, 18 percent from 3-point land and 57 percent from the line. They made up for their offensive inefficiency on the defensive end by forcing 18 turnovers and scoring 22 ensuing points.
Stanford, who tallied 26 points in CUA's 62-56 victory over the Blue Jays on Jan. 6, was 7-for-14 Wednesday and collected a game-high seven rebounds. Howard, the leading candidate to give the Cards' their second straight Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year (Stanford), shot 7 of 12 and had six boards.
Eckert's layup gave the Blue Jays an 18-6 lead with 11:56 left before halftime. The Cardinals scored the next 11 points but found themselves down 34-25 on a Simpkiss jumper. Stanford scored six of the final eight points of the half to bring CUA to within 34-33 at the break.
Fonville's basket concluded a 10-2 run and put the Cardinals up 60-50 with 5:05 remaining. A pair of Evan Hathaway 3s ignited a 12-2 burst to pull E-Town even at 62. Fonville broke the tie with a pair of charity stripers before Simpkiss tied it at 64.
Fonville, who added four steals and three boards, went over the 1,000-point mark with a jump shot 1:30 into the second half. It was his late assist to Howard that propelled CUA to its longest winning streak since it won 14 in a row in Mike Lonergan's final year as coach of the Cardinals, 2003-04.
Howes can't say enough good things about Fonville, his junior playmaking guard from ACC country in Greensboro, N.C.
"Bryson was incredibly clutch once again tonight," Howes said. "If we could have caught the ball better, he would have had even more assists."
Kyle Phanord accounted for nine points on three triples, and his twin brother Kevin added four points and three steals off the bench. Khouri scored four points.
The Landmark-leading Cards host league rival Drew on Franny Murray Court on Saturday. It will be CUA's final regular-season home game, and senior Shakir Evans will be honored prior to the 4 p.m. tipoff.