Big second half sends Cardinals into ECAC championship game

ANNVILLE, Pa. – CUA will play for an ECAC championship after the Cardinals rolled past DeSales 88-56 on Saturday in the semifinals of the tournament.  It is the Cardinals first ECAC championship game appearance since 2005.  Cody Otto had a terrific day for CUA (21-8) with 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting, while Jason Banzhaf notched a double-double with 23 points and 10 boards.

CUA led 37-29 after one half and then the Cardinals started to pour it on, outscoring the Bulldogs 28-15 in the opening ten minutes of the second to go in front 65-46. 

Otto and Banzhaf hit three 3-pointers between them right out of the gate in that second half to put CUA in front 46-33 with 17:53 on the clock.  Back-to-back layups by Banzhaf and Otto then made it a 16-point game with 17:05 remaining.

DeSales closed to within 12 on Andrew Kohler's free throw at the 14:03 mark but CUA responded with seven straight points capped by Spencer Reed's bucket and the Cardinals were in front 61-42.

Banzhaf's 3-pointer at the 7:50 mark made it a 25-point game and after Otto got to the hoop for a layup with 6:21 remaining the Cardinals were in front by 31, 79-48. 

Chris Kearney gave CUA a 32-point cushion with a free throw at the 5:44 mark and senior Ryan Horka closed things out with a basket in the final minute to set the final margin at 32, equaling the Cardinals largest lead of the afternoon.

CUA shot a sizzling 56 percent in the second half while holding DeSales to just 30 percent in the final 20 minutes.  Joining Banzhaf and Otto in double figures was R.J. Dixon with 10, while Kearney pulled down seven boards and also blocked a pair of shots.

The Cardinals harassed their counterparts into a 3 of 18 showing from 3-point range (16 percent), including just 1 of 9 in the second half.

DeSales leading scorer Brian Hunter, who netted 21 in the Bulldogs win over CUA earlier this season, was held in check on Saturday, with only 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting.  Brett Moyer was the team's leading scorer with 16 points and two Bulldogs, Tom Marshall and Kyle Hash, pulled down five rebounds apiece.

Following a layup by Moyer at the 17:10 mark of the first half DeSales led 9-4, but four straight points by CUA brought the Cardinals to within 9-8.

Andy Roell's basket with 13:41 to go brought the Cardinals to within one and Dixon's jumper on CUA's next possession put the Cardinals in the lead, 15-14.

A basket by Moyer with 6:48 on the clock tied things at 23, but from there CUA scored seven straight to take a 30-23 lead with exactly four to go.

DeSales cut the Cardinals lead to just three with 1:37 left in the half but a Banzhaf layup and 3-pointer from Shawn Holmes propelled CUA into halftime ahead by eight, 39-27.

On Sunday CUA will take on tournament host Lebanon Valley in the 2011 ECAC championship. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m. from Annville.  The Dutchmen downed Wesley in the second semifinal on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals have just one ECAC title in school annals, which came in 1986 when CUA downed Frostburg State in the championship game, 90-86.

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