NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — For the first time in more than a decade, Christopher Newport earned a postseason win, defeating Rutgers-Newark 84-72 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. The Captains ended a streak of five consecutive tournament losses.
Nik Biberaj led the Captains with a double-double, scoring 22 points and adding 11 rebounds.
The Captains raced out to a double-digit lead, led by Biberaj and rookie Evan Thorpe. CNU went up 16-6 as Biberaj scored six points early. Thorpe surged out the gates, getting to the line and scoring seven points in the early run.
After trading baskets on the next two possessions, the Scarlet Raiders put together a 12-2 run to erase the big lead, tying things at 20. Hussein Abdelmaksoud scored three points and added an assist to help lead the spurt. Rookie Connor Laframboise hit a 3-pointer to end the run to give CNU the lead back at 23-20.
The Captains added a 12-2 run of their own to re-take a double-digit lead at 32-22. Thorpe was again key in the surge, going 2-for-2 from the line and knocking down a contested layup. CNU took a 13-point lead into the break as Laframboise knocked down another 3-pointer and Tra Benefield finished out the half with a layup.
The Captains were led by Thorpe’s 13 points in the opening half, while Biberaj added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
In the second half, the lead was never in doubt, as an 11-4 run out of the locker room built the lead to 20 for CNU. With 12:48 remaining, Benefield hit a 3-pointer to give CNU it’s largest lead of the game, a 21-point edge, at 55-34. The lead was still 20 with 4:15 remaining when Christian Garcia and Doze Ikwuegbu began to heat up. The two combined for 19 of the last 21 points scored by Rutgers-Newark, but the Captains held on for a 12-point win.
Biberaj’s double-double was his 12th of the season. He finished with a team-high in both categories with a 9-for-11 performance from the floor. Five Captains finished in double figures, as Benefield (16), Thorpe (14), Mike Cherry (13) and Laframboise (12) rounded out the top performances.