TOWSON, MD. – In the face of adversity, teams either wilt or respond.
No. 16 Catholic University responded from a 13-point first-half deficit to win it's 14th straight and move to 20-3 and 14-0 in the Landmark Conference. With second-place Scranton's 74-60 home loss to Susquehanna, the Cardinals take a two-game lead with two to play.
Kyle Phanord paced CUA's Wednesday night triumph with career highs in 3-pointers (8) and points (28). Jay Howard had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Bryson Fonville scored 13 points and set a Decker Sports & Rec Center record with a season-high 15 assists.
Corey Stanford had 18 points and seven boards, and Austin Calling tallied 16 points and nine rebounds. All five starters scored in double figures, and the Cardinals assisted on 28 of their 38 field goals. They committed just four turnovers (one after halftime).
Goucher, which has played CUA each season for the past 25 years, got 16 points from Kevin Miles, 12 from Chris Outing, 11 from Alex Noble and 10 from Tucker Canary. The Gophers (4-18, 3-10 Landmark) played far better than their record would indicate and shot 50 percent overall and 46 percent from 3-point range.
"I've never seen Goucher shoot that well in the 16 years I've been here," Cardinal Coach Steve Howes said.
On the strength of four 3-pointers, including three by Phanord, the Cards opened up a 28-20 lead midway through the first half. The Gophers scored nine of the next 11 points to pull close, but Louis Khouri dropped in a 3 for a 33-29 CUA lead. It quickly evaporated in the face of a 17-0 Goucher blitz that included two 3-pointers and a three-point play by Norman Allen.
A Fonville free throw and Austin Calling follow shot 2:22 before halftime were the Cards' first points in 4½ minutes. The Gophers finished with two of their nine first-half triples (9 of 14) and went into intermission leading 52-45. It was the most points the Cardinals have allowed in the first half all season.
CUA began the second period on a 16-6 run that Fonville punctuated with an acrobatic fastbreak layup. Goucher cut the Cardinal lead to 61-60 before the longtime rivals exchanged one-point leads four times. CUA broke away with a 14-0 sprint that featured three 3-pointers by Phanord. The junior hit one from each wing and one from the top of the key to power the Cards to a 79-64 advantage.
Phanord was 5-for-7 beyond the arc in the decisive second half.
Howes was pleased to see his team win a shootout and dig itself out of a double-digit hole.
"It was an amazing response," he said. "The last point we made in the locker room before the game was 'poise.' Like life, no game is linear, and you're going to have to respond to adversity, and we were certainly tested."