Leading at one point by 16 points, Christopher Newport self-destructed late in the second half, losing its season opener Sunday at Roanoke College 73-72.
Forward Mike Green, CNU's top returning scorer, led the Captains with 22 points but was hampered by foul trouble that kept him on the bench for important stretches during crunch time. Guards Conley Taylor and Paul Going chipped in with 17 and 15, respectively, in the losing effort.
Eighteen CNU turnovers — 13 in the second half — helped doom the Captains, who were 18-9 last season. Roanoke (19-7 last season) had 11 turnovers during the late afternoon contest, played before a sparse but boisterous home crowd.
CNU led 48-42 after a first half in which there were 14 lead changes and five ties. The Maroons and Captains then traded leads until a 14-4 run put CNU up 48-39. A buzzer-beating 3-point field goal that bounced around the rim before going in for Roanoke guard Parrish Walker proved to be significant later on.
"We certainly were our own worst enemy," said Captains head coach C.J. Woollum, who nevertheless was pleased by what he saw early in the second half. "Then it sort of came to a halt. They started making plays and we turned the ball over too much."
All appeared fine for Christopher Newport as the second half began, with a 13-5 surge putting the Captains up 63-47. Much of their attack took place inside, where the Maroons are somewhat thin. Captains center Mark Blasingame took advantage, posting a double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) for the game.
Then the pendulum swung again toward Roanoke, courtesy of a 14-4 streak that cut CNU's lead to 67-63 with 5:47 left. The Captains did not score for almost six minutes during that stretch.
With 3:33 to play the Maroons' Matt Crizer tied the game with two free throws. Crizer finished with 21 points, including 5-of-6 shots from beyond the 3-point line.
Fourteen seconds later CNU took its last lead at 72-70 on a Taylor layup, but he couldn't convert the three-point play. Crizer's final 3-pointer with 49 seconds left gave Roanoke the lead for good and provided the final score of 73-72.
The Captains could not capitalize after Walker missed two free throws with 19 seconds to play. A wild scramble for the ball with three seconds left led to an in-bounds alley-oop attempt of sorts by Taylor, who was knocked down in the process, but in the end Christopher Newport left extremely disappointed.
Woollum said he thought Taylor might have been fouled on that final shot and was hoping for free throws that could have tied or given CNU the lead.
"But on the road, most officials are going to hold that whistle," he noted. "Take nothing away from Roanoke — they fought back from a huge deficit. Hopefully we'll learn from it."
A year ago on its home court, CNU had an early 14-point lead on Roanoke before that contest slipped away as well.
Maroons head coach Page Moir said scheduling CNU for the season opener would help him assess his team early.
"It turned into a defensive slugfest, which we really needed because they are so good offensively. They just have weapons at every position."
"It was pretty wild," Going said. "We built up a pretty nice lead, but all of a sudden we looked like a deer in the headlights. We didn't match their intensity in the second half. … I'm speechless right now."
ROANOKE 73, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT 72CNU (0-1): Green 8-17 5-6 22, Taylor 6-13 3-6 17, Going 5-8 1-2 15, Blasingame 4-8 1-1 9, Baker 1-6, 1-2 4, Capin 1-3, 1-2 3, Parham 0-0 2-2 2, Briggs 0-3 0-0 0, Preston 0-0 0-0 0, Hermann 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 25-61 14-21 72.
ROANOKE (1-0): Crizer 5-8 6-8 21, Chittock 5-9 0-1 11, Singleton 3-10 4-4 10, Poindexter 1-5 6-7 8, Walker 3-10 1-4 8, Amponsah 2-8 2-2 6, McGeough 2-4 0-0 5, Fall 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 23-58 19-26 73.
Halftime — CNU 48-42. 3-point goals — CNU 8-17 (Going 4-5, Taylor 2-2, Green 1-2, Baker 1-4, Briggs 0-1, Hermann 0-1, Capin 0-2), Roanoke 8-19 (Crizer 5-6, McGeough 1-1, Chittock 1-2, Walker 1-4, Amponsah 0-2, Poindexter 0-2, Singleton 0-2). Rebounds — CNU 44 (Blasingame 18), Roanoke 34 (Chittock 6, McGeough 6). Assists — CNU 11 (Going 4), Roanoke 13 (McGeough 5). Total fouls — CNU 19, Roanoke 18. Fouled out — CNU, Green. Technicals — CNU, Baker, Taylor; Roanoke, Walker, Fall, team. A — 311.