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CNU to host men's and women's NCAA tournament games
CNU to host men's and women's NCAA tournament games

Christopher Newport basketball's successful trip to Fayetteville, N.C., resulted in a busy upcoming weekend on Shoe Lane.

The Captains' men and women will host NCAA Division III tournament games this weekend at the Freeman Center after winning USA South Conference titles, the NCAA announced Monday.

CNU's men (21-5) will host Rutgers-Newark (20-7) at 4 p.m. Saturday, while the women host a four-team pod for games Friday and Saturday. The CNU women (26-2) open Friday against Guilford (23-5) at 7 p.m., and Marymount (23-4) faces Eastern Mennonite (21-6) in the other game at 5 p.m. The winners will play at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"To have a chance to host and play in front of our fans and our community and for our guys to have that comfort level is just a great opportunity," CNU men's coach John Krikorian said. "I think it speaks volumes about the respect our program has and the season we've had and the strength of schedule we played."

The Captains will make their 19th NCAA appearance and second in a row under Krikorian. They won their 15th conference title in their final season in the USA South.

"We defended very well in all three games," Krikorian said. "I thought defensively, we executed at a very high level. We were a little inconsistent, offensively. But defense wins championships and that carried the day for us."

CNU limited all three tournament opponents to less than 40-percent shooting. The Captains held the nation's leading scorer, N.C. Wesleyan's Brandon Givens, and the No. 4 scorer, Averett's Justin Pierce, under 20 points. They built a big early lead against Greensboro, the USA South's hottest team coming into the tournament, and held off the Pride in the second half.

Forward Nik Biberaj averaged a double-double last weekend and was named tournament MVP. He was joined on the all-tournament team by freshmen Evan Thorpe and Connor Laframboise.

Rutgers-Newark was runner-up to Ramapo in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Raiders lead the NJAC in field-goal percentage defense (.376), 3-point field-goal defense (.291) and rebound margin (plus-7.5).

They're led by sophomore guard Christian Garcia (15.3 ppg), the conference's No. 2 scorer and a second-team all-league choice, senior guard Al'Don Muhammad (12.5 ppg, 3.7 apg), and 6-6 forward Hussein Abdelmaksoud (8.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg). They go nine-deep, and seven players average at least six points per game.

CNU's women won their 11th tournament title, throttling two of the nation's top 10 offenses in the semifinal (Maryville) and final (Ferrum) and never trailing in any of the three games.

"We continue to play well on defense," first-year head coach Bill Broderick said. "I think that's been pretty consistent for us. But I think we're playing a lot better offensively and really starting to get in sync a little bit. Obviously, it takes longer offensively, and I definitely like the way we're playing at this time."

Tia Perry (Tabb) was named tournament MVP after logging 16 points, eight rebounds and nine steals in the title game against Ferrum, one of the two teams to beat CNU during the regular season. Kelly Halverson (Poquoson) was the offensive star of the semifinal win over Maryville, hitting seven 3-pointers and scoring 25 points.

Guilford, which won its second consecutive ODAC title, is led by forward Gabby Oglesby (11.2 ppg, 8 rpg) and center Morgan King (10.4 ppg, 8 rpg). Guilford defeated Eastern Mennonite 61-59 in the ODAC title game.

CNU returns to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. The Captains have won 13 in a row and have embraced Broderick's style.

"I was hoping that we would do well and I thought we had good talent," he said. "If I ever thought we'd be 26-2 and hosting an NCAA game? No, I definitely didn't think that. We had the pieces to do a lot of the things I wanted to do, but it's come together a little quicker than I thought."

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