January 11, 2012

University of the District of Columbia Men’s Basketball Overcomes Slow Start; Defeats NYIT, 83-74

WASHINGTON, DC  –  Senior guard Nigel Munson registered game-highs of 24 points and nine assists to lead the No. 22 ranked University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team to an 83-74 victory over East Coast Conference foe New York Institute of Technology on Wednesday night at the UDC Gym.

Munson (Washington, DC – DeMatha HS) scored 16 of his 24 in the second half as the Firebirds outscored the Bears 52-38 in the second half after falling behind, 36-31 at halftime. The five-point deficit at the intermission was the largest UDC has seen this season, though it could have been far worse as NYIT twice led by as many as 14 in the first half.

With the win, UDC improved to 13-1 overall and won its East Region-best 11th straight game in a row. The Firebirds also extended their home win-streak at UDC Gym to an East Region-best, 13.

In what was truly a tale of two halves, NYIT out-shot District of Columbia from the field 45-percent to 27-percent and held the Firebirds to 0-for-9 shooting from three-point range. But in the second half, UDC owned a 51-percent to 30-percent shooting advantage and canned 5-of-16 from long-range to complete the comeback win.

"This was a good win for us tonight," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "We did not operate with any kind of efficiency in the first half, but we found a way to pull it out in the second half. I was proud of our guys for that."

The Firebirds put four scorers in double-figures tonight including senior guards Munson, Brandon Herbert (16 points) and Dishawn Bradshaw (15 points, seven rebounds) and junior reserve guard Brandon Ennis (10 points). NYIT was led by Kayvon Roberts and Azel Prather, Jr. who scored 20 points apiece and combined for 21 rebounds.

Junior forward Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY – Bedford Academy), who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first game of the season tonight replacing senior center Diyaaldin Kelley, scored the Firebirds' first four points of the game, but the Bears climbed out to an early 10-4 lead over the first three-and-a-half minutes of play and forced a UDC timeout. Out of the break, NYIT mounted an 11-3 run to extend its lead to 21-7 at the 13:24 mark. The Firebirds still trailed by a 14-point margin past the eight-minute mark when a pair of free-throws by Keith Brooks (Harlem, NY – Monsignor McClancy HS) jumpstarted a 10-2 UDC run and closed the gap to six, 31-25. Then, after five straight points by NYIT, the Firebirds closed out the half on a 6-0 run, culminating in a jumper by Herbert to make it 36-31 at intermission.

With a frenetic pace to start the second half, the hosts twice pulled within a point only to have NYIT up its lead back to five during the first four-and-a-half minutes of action. Trailing 46-41 with 16:29 left to play, the Firebirds used a 10-4 surge to take their first lead of the game, 51-48  on a Munson three-point field goal. The Bears answered back with an 8-1 spell and took a 56-52 lead on Russell Holloway's layup just past the 12-minute mark, but consecutive three-pointers by Brooks and Bradshaw put UDC ahead to stay, 58-56 with 10:19 left to play. NYIT kept it close until the six-minute mark when a 17-5 UDC run, capped by a Munson three-pointer, put the game out of reach, 83-70 with 1:08 showing on the clock. NYIT scored the final two baskets, but UDC went on to win by a comfortable margin, 83-74.

With its strong second half showing, the Firebirds out-shot NYIT 39-percent to 36-percent from the field for the game and also benefitted from a 22-of-26 shooting night from the foul line as compared to the Bears' 17-of-26. UDC also had two more assists (13-11) and three less turnovers (15-12) though the Firebirds were outrebounded 52-46 and outscored in the paint 44-32.

Next up for UDC is an East Coast Conference road test at the University of Bridgeport on Saturday, January 14th at 3:00 p.m. Fans can listen to live audio of the game presented by play-by-play announcer Eli Pearlstein via www.udcfirebirds.com.

*Game Note: With his 16-point performance tonight, Brandon Herbert needs just 13 points to reach 1,000 for his college career.