GREENCASTLE, Ind. – Powered by a 50-point second half against one of the toughest defenses in the nation, 17th-ranked Christopher Newport upset fifth-ranked and undefeated Montclair State 83-70 in the Round of 16. Five Captains finished in double figures as CNU improved to 29-2 overall this year, handing the Red Hawks their first loss to end the season 29-1.
“I’m just so proud of the girls,” head coach Bill Broderick said. “There are a lot of people that didn’t even give us a chance to be in this game, let alone win it. It’s a great win for the program.”
CNU knew it would be a tough task coming into the game on Friday, as MSU came into the matchup ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring margin (+28.6), seventh in scoring defense (45.8 ppg) and first in steals per game (17.8 spg). But in the second half, the Captains offense answered the call.
After a pedestrian start to the second half, the Captains trailed by a game-high five with 10:41 remaining, at 49-44. Sarah Kluth hit a pair of free-throws to give the Red Hawks the five-point edge, 49-44. That would trigger a timeout called by Broderick and a big run by the CNU offense. Junior Tia Perry would score the next six points for CNU, and rookie Brandi Holland added a layup to cut the lead to one, 53-52. Then, a 1-for-2 trip to the free-throw line by NJAC Player of the Year Melissa Tobie, senior Kelly Halverson hit yet another big shot with a baseline runner to tie things up at 54.
All of a sudden, the Captains raced out on a 12-4 surge and took the biggest lead of the game for either squad, a 10-point edge with 5:14 remaining, 66-56. Halverson hit a three-pointer, her fifth of the game, to make it five, and the rookie guard, Holland, was at the center of it all. She scored seven straight points, including a tough three-point play as she was fouled by Tobie.
With a double-digit lead and less than five minutes to play, the Captains were in control, and took care of the basketball. Forced to foul, Montclair State watched as CNU knocked down 14 free-throws in the final 5:29. Perry went to the line four times, going 6-for-8 to help ice the victory.
CNU scored 50 points in the second half, the most allowed in a single stanza all year for the Red Hawks. The Captains also hit at a 53.8 percent clip for the game, by far the best total all season against MSU (Mount St Mary – 47.1 percent). It was just the third time Montclair State was tied at the half, and the highest total points allowed in a game all season.
In the first half, the Red Hawks flexed their defensive muscle, forcing the Captains to commit 16 turnovers and scoring 17 points off of CNU miscues.
Still, the Captains managed to hang tough in the opening stanza, knocking down 54.2 percent of their shots to keep Montclair State from building a big lead. The largest lead of the game for the Red Hawks came with 1:56 remaining in the first half when they took a 33-28 lead on a Nicosia Henry layup. CNU closed on a small 5-0 run, though, including another Halverson 3-pointer to tie things up at 33 headed into the locker room.
Halverson finished with five made 3-pointers and 17 total points for the Captains, as one of five CNU players in double figures. Perry had a game-high 24 points with a 10-for-12 performance at the charity stripe, adding five assists and three rebounds. Nicole Mitchell had an extremely balanced game, with 14 points on a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor, with seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Camry Green added 11 points, also 5-for-5 from the floor, eight rebounds and a steal. Holland rounded out those in double figures with a 13-point second half, finishing with 15 total points.
Junior point guard Andrea Hobbs played just 21 minutes, but added seven assists, a block and a steal for CNU, while reserve Chantal Thomas finished third on the squad with four rebounds in her stead.
Montclair State, wrapping a program-best season, had three players in double figures. Tobie had 23 on 9-of-16 from the floor, while Taylor Jeffers and Shalette Brown added 11 and 14, respectively. The Red Hawks saw their season end after a program-record 29 consecutive wins and the deepest run in the NCAA tournament in program history.
The Captains, in their 15th NCAA tournament appearance, advance to their second quarterfinals appearance all time. In 2010, CNU defeated Lebanon Valley, 62-50, in the quarterfinals to advance to the program’s first semifinals. CNU is now 2-2 all-time in Round of 16 appearances.