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Firebirds Men’s Basketball Pulls Away for 87-79 Win vs. Roberts Wesleyan

Senior point guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with 23 points and tied for the game-high with five assists.
Senior point guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with 23 points and tied for the game-high with five assists.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team out-scored its guest Roberts Wesleyan College, 9-4 in the final minute of regulation courtesy of 7-of-8 free-throw shooting, and the Firebirds pulled away for an 87-79 East Coast Conference victory over the Redhawks Wednesday night at the UDC Sports Complex.

The Firebirds, winners of two straight in-conference games, improved to 3-4 overall and 2-0 in the ECC, while RWC fell to 0-8 overall and 0-3 in league play. UDC, led wire-to-wire in tonight's game, has now won its last three games vs. the Redhawks going back to last season.

Senior point guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-10 FG shooting and 7-of-9 shooting at the line. He also tied two other Firebirds for the game-high in assists with five. Three of Chandler's backcourt mates - senior Joseph Nickerson and juniors Traevon Butler and Anthony Matthews - scored in double-figures as well. Nickerson shot 5-of-9 from the field and a perfect 5-of-5 from the foul line as he registered 15 points to go with a team-best eight rebounds, five assists and a game-high four steals. Butler added 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and Matthews played 24 minutes off the bench and provided 12 points, five assists and four steals.

The Redhawks had five scorers in double-figures, including a team-high 16 points by reserve guard Zack Panebianco, who shot 5-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from long range, and 3-of-3 at the foul line. Forward Manny Joseph added 14 points and seven rebounds, center Malik Dare pitched in 12 points and nine rebounds, and guard Isaiah Lewis contributed 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Senior guard Reggie Sidbury (8 pts, 4 rb, two blocks) knocked down two three-pointers for the game's first six points, as he helped the Firebirds soar to a 10-0 lead over the first four minutes of play. UDC went on to dominate the first half, out-shooting RWC 54-percent to 33-percent from the field en-route to a 44-31 lead at the break.

Still an 11-point Firebirds advantage approaching the 11-minute mark in the 2nd half, UDC allowed the Redhawks on a 12-4 run that included three consecutive three-pointers by RWC – the final two of which were by guard Quinn Carey (11 points) – and brought the guests within three, 67-64 with 9:20 remaining. Twice more the Redhawks would pull within three, including on a Carey layup at 1:26 to make the score, 78-75.

At that point, however, Chandler converted an incredible, acrobatic layup that brought the Firebird fans to their feet with under a minute left, extending the UDC lead to five. The hosts would then go on to make 7-of-8 free-throws down the stretch and hold RWC to four points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field and 2-of-5 shooting at the line, as they pulled away for an eight-point victory.

For the game, UDC out-shot Roberts Wesleyan 52-percent (32-of-62) to 43-percent (30-of-70) from the field, 44-percent (7-of-16) to 40-percent (8-of-20) from three-point range, and 84-percent (16-of-19) to 58-percent (11-of-19) at the foul line. The Firebirds had five fewer turnovers (12-7) and two more assists (17-15), plus they tripled-up the Redhawks 21-7 in points off of turnovers and nearly doubled them up in fast-break points, 18-8. RWC stayed in the game with a 45-34 rebounding advantage, 17 second-chance points, and nearly double UDC's bench points (41-23).

Next up, UDC travels to Flushing, NY for a battle with ECC foe Queens College on Saturday, December 10th.