By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – Catholic University's 15-game winning streak – the fourth-longest in school history – was great while it lasted, but it was never something the Cardinals dwelt on.
"We never talked about the streak. We just lived in the moment," CUA Coach Steve Howes said following his team's 83-71 loss at Scranton (Pa.) on Saturday afternoon. "We just didn't do a good job of that today."
The 14th-ranked Cardinals, losing for the first time since Dec. 15, had already clinched the Landmark Conference regular-season championship before tipoff and will host Drew in a first-round tournament game Wednesday night.
"I'm disappointed we didn't perform the way we have the last two months, but I'm proud of the guys for what they accomplished during the regular season," Howes said. "Now it's time to focus on the playoffs."
The Cards head into the four-team tournament 20-4 and 15-1 in the Landmark. The 15 wins are the most of any team in the league's eight-year history.
Brendan Boken did the most Saturday to avenge the Royals' 71-65 loss at CUA on Jan. 17. The junior post tallied 22 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Senior Ross Danzig added 16 points, eight boards and five assists, while his brother, rookie Ethan Danzig, came off the bench to score 16 points.
Sophomore Corey Stanford did all he could to keep the Cardinals in contention by scoring a career-high 34 points. The reigning Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year was 11 of 18 from the field and hit 3 of 7 beyond the arc. He was most productive down low and was 9 of 10 from the foul line. His stat line included four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
"Corey was exceptional on offense," Howes said. "He took quality shots in the flow of the offense."
Junior CUA point guard Bryson Fonville had a tough shooting night, going 2-for-13 and finishing with nine points and six assists. Freshman Jay Howard played just 23 minutes and notched 11 points and three boards.
The Cardinals got off to a good start and led 15-10 at the 13:32 mark of the first half. Scranton (20-5, 14-2 Landmark) was on top 25-23 when Boken and Ethan Danzig combined to score the Royals' next eight points and gain some breathing room, 33-25. Danzig, 4 of 7 from treyland, nailed one with 1:53 to go before the break to give Scranton a 10-point advantage, its biggest of the opening half. Two Fonville free throws enabled the Cards go into halftime trailing 36-28.
The Royals scored their first 12 points of the second half in the lane before Ross Danzig drained a 3 for a 15-point Scranton lead. Two more Boken layups stretched the advantage to 19, 74-55, with 5:55 remaining.
CUA continued to battle and produced a 10-1 spurt that Stanford punctuated with a three-point play to narrow the Royal lead to 75-65. The Cardinals, however, could never get the ensuing deficit into single digits and now must prepare to play a Drew (12-13, 7-9) team that it beat by 19 and 25 points.
Scranton will host Susquehanna (19-6, 12-4) in the other Landmark semifinal Wednesday. The two winners will square off Saturday Feb. 28 with the conferences' automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs on the line. The highest remaining seed will host the championship game.
The Cards last won the Landmark regular-season and tournament title two seasons ago.
Stanford had a heck of a week in CUA's two contests, combining to go 19 of 33 overall, 7 of 11 beyond the plus-one line and 13 of 14 at the charity stripe. His respective shooting percentages were 57.6, 63.6 and 92.8. He also had 10 rebounds, seven steals and four blocks.
Junior Cardinal Austin Calling totaled nine points and a team-best six rebounds. The Royals collected 36 errant shots to CUA's 23.
Notes – The Cardinals have won 20 or more games six times in Steve Howes' 11 seasons in Brookland. … Corey Stanford produced his previous career high of 27 points twice last season, against Goucher and Susquehanna. … The Cards were a combined 5-1 against the other three Landmark Tournament semifinalists. … CUA concluded the regular season 11-0 at home, 8-4 on the road and 2-0 on neutral courts.