To the extent that December losses can, this one hurt.
The Virginia Wesleyan men's basketball team came into Sunday undefeated and No. 6 in the Division III rankings. It was hosting Christopher Newport, which Wesleyan had beaten 12 straight times, most recently in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
But after taking an early double-digit lead, Wesleyan (7-1) was undone by missed free throws, turnovers and a beating on the boards. That it forced overtime only intensified the sting after Christopher Newport pulled off an 83-80 upset at the Batten Center.
"We can't give a good team that many advantages," Wesleyan coach Dave Macedo said. "We didn't have a physical presence today, and we had a week to prepare. I was disappointed in our effort."
The Captains (7-1) grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, 10 more than their bigger opponents. They forced 18 Wesleyan turnovers and didn't pay much for their 22 fouls - Wesleyan made just 15 of 29 free throws. CNU's star senior, Tra Benefield, edged Wesleyan's, DJ Woodmore (Landstown). Benefield scored 30 points to Woodmore's 25.
"Our guys, I didn't have to motivate them in any way," CNU coach John Krikorian said. "We have good players, but we haven't gotten over this hump. I think they took it a little personally, and they went out and took to those big moments very well."
Wesleyan raced out to a 30-18 lead by drilling seven of its first 12 3-pointers. But during a timeout that followed, Macedo dressed down his squad for allowing the CNU guards to drive at will.
The defense didn't improve, and the shots stopped falling. The Captains outscored Wesleyan 25-8 before half, including an 11-0 run, and took a five-point lead into the locker room.
The Marlins made it tougher in the second half but kept allowing second chances. With eight minutes remaining, CNU actually got four chances - and that possession ended with a 3-pointer by Benefield.
In overtime, Benefield and guard Terry Jackson (18 points) went back to penetrating off the dribble, scoring all 11 of the Captains' points. Wesleyan couldn't answer.
"That was in the scouting report," said Wesleyan guard Greg Montgomery. "We just didn't do a good job at stopping them. We made a game of it, but we didn't get as many stops down the stretch."
Krikorian thought the penetration created opportunities to get offensive rebounds.
"A lot of times a shot blocker will come over," he said. "As long as we don't actually get blocked, we get a pretty good shot at the offensive rebound. It's something we work on, and our guys executed that well today."
The Captains were 0-6 at the Batten Center and hadn't beaten the Marlins since the 2001-02 season.
"Maybe it's a good wake-up call for us," Macedo said.
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