CNU men's hoops falls in Elite Eight, snapping 24-game win streak and ending season at 27-3

Posted at 12:49 AM, Mar 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-13 00:49:07-05

MARIETTA, Ohio (- Christopher Newport University and Marietta College battled to the finish Saturday night in a sectional final at Ban Johnson Arena in front of a frenzied capacity crowd of 1,162. The host Pioneers escaped with an 81-79 victory, and will advance to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four.

The Captains, who held a 15-point first half lead, conclude the season with a 27-3 record. The defeat snapped a 24-game winning streak for CNU that dated back to November 21st.

Marietta senior guard Lukas Isaly erupted for 38 points, with 24 coming in the second half as the Pioneers pulled out their 27th straight win. Sophomore Jahn Hines led the Captains attack with 20 points, one of five CNU players to reach double digits. Fifth-year senior Jason Aigner finished with 16 points, sophomore Ian Anderson posted 14, senior Darian Peterson added 12, and freshman Ty Henderson recorded a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds.

The Captains, ranked fourth in the nation, established the lead in the opening half, and surged to a 15-point advantage, 35-20. Marietta used a 10-2 run in the final minutes of the half to cut the deficit to seven at the break, 37-30. The Pioneers continued their comeback and jumped ahead, 49-46, on a three-pointer by Isaly with 13:01 to play.

Marietta, the second-ranked team in the nation, maintained the lead until the Captains pulled even, 60-60, on a triple from senior Matt Brodie with 7:31 to go. The Captains then took a 63-60 lead when Aigner drilled a three-pointer with 7:05 to play. Unfortunately for CNU, it would prove to be its final lead of the game.

The next six minutes saw the Pioneers re-claim the lead five times...only to have the Captains answer and tie the game at 65, 67, 69, 72, and finally at 74 on two free throws by Hines with 1:39 to play. Marietta then opened a 79-74 lead thanks to a short jumper from senior Tim Kreeger with 1:38 to go and then a triple from senior Jason Ellis with 38 seconds remaining.

The Captains would not go quietly, mounting another charge in the final seconds. Aigner connected on a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut the lead to two, 79-77. After fouling the Pioneers on the inbounds pass, Marietta made just one of two at the line to push the lead to three, 80-77, with eight seconds left. Again, Aigner raced down the court and was fouled on a three-point attempt with just three ticks left on the clock. He proceeded to connect on two of three at the line to pull the Captains to within one, 80-79.

Again, Marietta went to the line after a CNU foul with two seconds left, making one of two to go ahead, 81-79. The Captains got the ball into Aigner's hands yet again, but his long three from beyond half court on the buzzer fell short and the Pioneers held on for the two-point victory.

In all, the battle was tied at ten different junctures, and the lead exchanged hands six times. Marietta out-rebounded the Captains, 48-38, and converted 16 of 32 shots from the field in the second half after making just nine of 27 attempts in the opening half. Christopher Newport made just 38 percent of its shots for the night (24 of 63), despite converting ten of 21 from long range (48 percent).

Aigner's 16-point effort moved him into 11th on the school's all-time scoring list, passing Mike Cherry by one point. Aigner concluded his CNU career with 1,480 points in 118 games, and set a school record for career three-pointers, finishing with 99 this season and 370 for his career.

The trip to the Elite 8 marked the fourth time the Captains have advanced to play in the round of eight. This was CNU's 25th NCAA appearance in the 54-year history of the program, and the Captains are now 27-25 all-time in NCAA action.

The matchup was the second this season for the Captains and Pioneers. Marietta recorded an 86-83 triumph over CNU exactly four months ago on November 12th in the opening round of an early-season tournament at Roanoke College. Marietta now holds a 3-1 lead over the Captains in the all-time series.

Marietta, now 29-2, will advance to its first Final Four in program history, and will play top-ranked Randolph-Macon next Friday.