WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team snapped a 12-game losing streak to its cross town rival, Bowie State, as the Firebirds made 7-of-8 free-throws down the stretch to outlast the Bulldogs, 81-77 in non-regional action Tuesday night in our nation's capital.
The Firebirds, who improved to 4-5 on the season with tonight's victory, had not beaten Bowie State since January 16, 1999 - a J.P. Lawrence Tournament neutral site meeting in Takoma Park, MD. The Bulldogs, with tonight's loss, fell to 4-6 overall.
UDC used a complete team effort, with seven of the eight active players entering the scoring column and all eight recording at least two rebounds. The Firebirds did, however, lean on junior guard Traevon Butler, who registered a game-high 20 points on 6-of-12 FG shooting (2-of-4 from long range) and 6-of-8 FT shooting, and also totaled six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Butler's backcourt mates, Reggie Sidbury and Joseph Nickerson, added 19 and 14 points, respectively, and point guard Kasim Chandler pitched in eight points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Junior 6'9 center Kyle Williams also made his presence felt in the starting lineup tonight with seven points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot, and reserve forward Khalil Jackson stepped up big defensively with a game-high tying three blocked shots.
Bowie State featured a balanced attack with five scorers in double-figures, including a team-best 14 points by guard Michael Briscoe, and a near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds to go with a game-high three blocked shots by forward Enuoma Ebinum. Point guard Dayshawn Wells also added 11 points and a game-high five assists.
The first half featured a game of runs as Sidbury buried his first two three-point attempts of the game to help the Firebirds race out to an early 11-2 lead and force a 30-second timeout by Bowie State. Out of the timeout though, BSU responded with a 10-2 run, pulling within one, 13-12 on a three-pointer by Eric Pitts at the 12:42 mark of the first half. But back came UDC with a 10-2 surge of its own, taking a 23-14 lead near the 11-minute mark after a pair of free-throws by Chandler. The Firebirds would lead by as much as 11 following a three-pointer by junior transfer guard Anthony Matthews at the 1:29 mark, but a 7-0 Bowie State run to close the half saw the Bulldogs pull within four, 39-35 at intermission.
Ebinum, who's 12 points all came in the 2nd half, almost single-handedly steered BSU on an 11-6 run to open the 2nd half, scoring eight of the 11 points and assisting on Wilson's three-pointer. Ebinum's emphatic two-handed slam to cap that run just past the 16-minute mark, gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night, 46-45. UDC countered with an 8-0 run that included back-to-back three-pointers by Butler and Sidbury, and the Firebirds pushed their lead back up to 53-46 at the 14:21 mark.
Four separate times the Bulldogs closed within two, including twice within the final minute of regulation. In fact, following an and-one jump shot by Ebinum and the free-throw conversion with 16 seconds remaining, UDC led by only one, 78-77. A Brian Kelley foul on BSU sent Butler to the line to shoot two with 15 seconds on the clock, and Butler made the first but missed the second.
Still a one-possession game, Bowie State quickly made its way up the floor. The Bulldogs drew up a play that found an open Dayshawn Wells in the corner, but referees said Wells stepped out of bounds before firing (and connecting on) what would have been the go-ahead three-pointer with nine seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Firebirds possession, Bowie State had to foul UDC's top free-throw shooter, Kasim Chandler to stop the clock with eight seconds left. Chandler calmly sank both free-throws to make it a two-possession game, and the Firebirds held on to win by that four point margin, 81-77.
UDC, which led by as many as 11 and trailed only once the entire night, was out-shot by the Bulldogs, 45-percent (25-of-56) to 39-percent (27-of-69) from the field, out-rebounded 45-39, and doubled-up in bench points, 26-13. Still, the Firebirds pulled off the victory by out-shooting the Bulldogs from long range, 32-percent (7-of-22) to 24-percent (4-of-17), and from the free-throw line, 80-percent (20-of-25) to 68-percent (23-of-34), and committing five fewer turnovers (16-11) which resulted in four more points off of turnovers (20-16).
Next up, the Firebirds return to East Coast Conference play Saturday, December 17th as they host the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, St. Thomas Aquinas College, at 1 p.m.