CNU Basketball is back

Recapping the Men’s and Women’s return to competition 

~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~

A lot like countless other timeless institutions over the course of the past year, Christopher Newport University (CNU) Men’s and Women’s Basketball had an unfamiliar look as their seasons began last week. No fans were in attendance due to COVID-19 protocols, and the games would not count towards seeding in any future tournaments. On Tuesday, the Men’s team competed in their first of eight subject-to-change exhibitions against Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) member Shenandoah University. The Women’s team, who is conversely slated to play only six subject-to-change exhibition games, started their run against Coast to Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) rival Salisbury University. Regardless of the safety precaution circumstances surrounding the games, things did not play out too differently for CNU’s powerhouse programs. The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Captains. Junior Guard Jason Aigner tied the number for the second most three-point field goals he’s made in a game with seven. While it will not officially count, as the game was an exhibition, Aigner completed a feat he had previously accomplished twice before, and he was one three-pointer away from tying his career high. The Women’s team accrued 29 points off their bench, once again showing the depth CNU has on their young roster. 

Of course, the phenomenal statistics racked up by Aigner and the Women’s team bench, which were subsequently mirrored by their gametime experience-hungry teammates, were only a start for the ferocious Captains. The Men’s team competed two more times before the week’s end with two games, one on the road and the other at our hometown untenanted Freeman Center, against C2C rival Southern Virginia University. The Women’s team, on the other hand, only competed once, but the development earned through gametime experience and swarming defense was enough to get us all excited for their next outing. So, let’s see what all the fuss is about and take a quick glimpse back at the two CNU Basketball teams’ opening week of play. 

Getting the CNU Athletics’ amalgamated Spring season off to a hot start, the Men’s Basketball team shined in a dazzling display of three-point and defensive proficiency against the struggling Shenandoah Hornets. By the end of the night on Feb. 9, nobody could argue CNU’s male dribblers did not come ready to play, but it didn’t start off that way. In fact, the men stumbled out of the starting gate. The Hornets jumped out to an 8 to 0 lead before the Captains scored their first point. Freshman Forward Jahn Hines put CNU’s nerves at ease as the number one flashed across the scoreboard at the James R. Wilkins Jr. Athletics & Events Center in Winchester, Va. Finally, the Captains scored their first point of the 2021 campaign with Hines’ free throw. It wouldn’t be long before CNU turned on the jets and made a real game out of the exhibition. Aigner hit his second of seven three’s to tie the game at 21 with 8:45 left to go in the first half. Exactly one minute of in-game time later, the boys in royal blue took their first lead of the game when Freshman Guard Jamaal Madison connected on a three-pointer of his own to take a 25 to 23 lead. From that point on, the metaphysical representation of the men’s basketball pride of Newport News never looked back. At halftime, the Captains had the lead by a score of 49 to 44. They were shooting less than 50% from the field, but they outpaced the Hornets in three-pointers, assists, steals and, most importantly, had six turnovers compared to Shenandoah’s 12. In spite of making half as many mental mistakes, CNU was outrebounded by a tally of 21 to 14. Luckily, the Captains, captained by Head Coach John Krikorian, made the necessary changes at halftime to propel the second half rebound margin in their favor. Most notably, they crashed the offensive boards to finish with 12 more second chance points than Shenandoah. Additionally, the Captains held on to their lead for the entire duration of the second half. After a shaky start, CNU implemented a “stretch the floor” offensive scheme and “crash the boards” defensive gameplan to find consistency in their play. Ultimately, their efforts on both ends of the floor propelled the team over the Hornets for a 98 to 86 final score. Speaking of consistency, no Captain embodied the concept better than No. 22 Hines in the second half. He scored 17 of his 23 in the second, and he shot an incredibly proficient 71% from the field for the game. Pair that with Aigner’s seven three-pointers,  freshman forward Landon Hawes’ two steals and sophomore guard/forward Ian Anderson’s ability to run baseline-to-baseline with the ball in hand in the open court and you clearly have a recipe for success. The men continued their winning ways against the Southern Virginia Knights. They won the first of a weekend doubleheader on Friday 82 to 67, and they capped off the back-to-back with an 88 to 71 win. You can tune into the livestreams for all their games on cnusports.com. 

CNU Women’s Basketball did not have the same luck with the ball falling through the basket their male counterparts did. Last Wednesday night, the Captains fell to the Salisbury Seagulls by a final score of 66 to 53. CNU’s women had a one point lead heading into halftime, but a sudden second half awakening by Salisbury’s Kylie Webb, who scored all seven of her points in the second half, pushed the Seagulls past the Captains. CNU, who was playing their first game since Mar. 7, 2020, committed 32 turnovers by the game’s end. This is certainly an area Head Coach Bill Broderick and the rest of the team will look to improve upon as the rest of their impromptu schedule unfolds, but things were not all bad for the Captains. The team forced 27 turnovers of their own, and the freshman Forward from Suffolk, Alivia Giles, scored the second most points on the team with 12. It should also be noted only 11 women were available for the Captains because of safety precautions taken towards COVID-19 contact tracing. Needless to say, this game was a building experience for the women. 

General information obtained from cnusports.com: 

Christopher Newport University Athletics – Official Athletics Website (cnusports.com)

Statistics obtained from: 

Men’s Basketball vs Shenandoah University (Exhibition) on 2/9/2021 – Box Score – Christopher Newport University Athletics (cnusports.com)

– Single-Game Records (cnusports.com) 

Women’s Basketball vs Salisbury University (Exhibition) on 2/10/2021 – Box Score – Christopher Newport University Athletics (cnusports.com)

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