Firebirds Fall 91-81 vs. Wilmington

Junior guard Traevon Butler tied his career-high with 23 points.
Junior guard Traevon Butler tied his career-high with 23 points.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team had its three-game win streak snapped as the Firebirds were defeated, 91-81 by Wilmington University (DE) in East Region non-conference action Monday night at UDC Sports Complex.

With the loss, the Firebirds fell to 6-6 overall and 2-3 vs. teams from the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, while Wilmington improved to 3-0 vs. the East Coast Conference on the year and won its third straight game to improve to 9-5 overall. The Wildcats also became only the 2nd team this year to beat UDC on its home floor as the Firebirds are now 5-2 at the Sports Complex.

UDC junior guard Traevon Butler tied his career high with 23 points on 7-of-13 FG shooting and 6-of-6 shooting at the line, and he also hauled in eight rebounds – two shy of his 2nd double-double of the season. Senior point guard Kasim Chandler also scored 20 points – his 3rd straight game of 20 or more – while also registering nine rebounds, six assists and four steals – all game-highs. Junior transfer guard Khalil Jackson also added 19 points on 7-of-14 from the field (5-for-8 FT) and pitched in four rebounds, a game-high three blocked shots, two assists and two steals.

The Wildcats were led by guards Tyaire Ponzo-Meek (26 points) and Omari Dill-Pettiford (20 points), as well as an all-around performance by guard Nick Richards of 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. Masner Beauplan, a transfer from UDC, came off the bench to score 14 points against his former team.

Wilmington out-shot the Firebirds 47-percent (32-of-68) to 38-percent (28-of-73) from the field and 39-percent (9-of-23) to 25-percent (6-of-24) from long range. The Wildcats were also the better free-throw shooting team, making 18-of-20 (90-percent) to UDC's 19-of-25 (76-percent). Additionally, the visitors had a 45-39 rebounding edge, a 23-11 advantage in fast break points, and a 25-12 advantage in bench points.

Senior guard Reggie Sidbury scored all five of his points in the first three minutes of action on back-to-back shots around the 18-minute mark as he helped UDC to an early 7-4 lead. Chandler, too, had 12 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, and his layup at the 8:50 mark gave UDC what would be its largest lead of the night of six, 20-14. The rest of the first half, however, belonged to the Wildcats, as Brian Adkins ignited a 28-7 Wilmington surge to end the opening period which catapulted the visitors in front, 42-27 at intermission. Adkins would later make another three-pointer during that run and Beauplan sank back-to-back three-pointers as well.

Wilmington quickly grabbed its largest lead of the night less than 30 seconds into the action when Dill-Pettiford connected on a jump shot to put the Wildcats up, 44-27. Still trailing 48-32, the Firebirds went on a 10-1 run helped by seven Butler points, and they cut the deficit to seven, 49-42 with 14:30 remaining.

Later, after a layup by Beauplan pushed the Wildcats lead back up to nine, Butler scored five consecutive points on a pair of free-throws and then his 3rd and final three-pointer of the night which cut the lead to four, 55-51 with just under nine minutes to play.

Four separate times the Firebirds made it a one-possession game, but each time the Wildcats had an answer. First, Jackson's layup made it 62-59 at the 6:29 mark, but Dill-Pettiford buried a three-pointer to make it 65-59. Another Jackson layup at 4:42 made it 65-63, but Nick Richards made a jumper for the Wildcats on the ensuing possession and upped Wilmington's lead back to four, 67-63. A pair of free-throws by Jackson at 2:56 made it 72-69, but right down the floor came the Wildcats and Ponzo-Meek with another jumper to extend Wilmington's lead back up to five, 74-69. And finally, Jahkeem Folks swished a jumper from the left side to keep it a three-point game, 74-71 at 2:11, but a three-point dagger by Ponzo-Meek would end the threat and put Wilmington up, 77-71 with 1:47 remaining.

UDC would never get any closer than four the rest of the way as the Wildcats sank 8-of-8 free-throws in the final minute of regulation to close out a 10-point victory, 91-81.

The Firebirds return to East Coast Conference play on Wednesday, January 4th as they host LIU Post at 5 p.m.