Dominant Second Half Sends Firebirds to 87-81 ECC Victory Over LIU Post

Senior guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with his season-high 29 points.
Senior guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with his season-high 29 points.

WASHINGTON, DC – Trailing 51-44 at halftime, the University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team out-scored visiting LIU Post 43-30 in the closing half to muster an 87-80 victory in East Coast Conference play Wednesday night at the UDC Sports Complex.

UDC senior point guard Kasim Chandler led all scorers with 29 points, collected a team-high seven rebounds, and tied for a game-high four assists in 38 minutes of work. Chandler shot 9-of-14 from the field, 4-of-6 from three-point range, and 7-of-8 at the foul line en-route to a new season-high and his fourth straight game of 20 or more points.

Chandler's effort was backed by three other double-figure scorers including senior guard Joseph Nickerson, who poured in 18 points, four rebounds and three assists. Nickerson, who entered the game ranked 6th in the nation with 3.0 steals per-game, also had a game-high four takeaways tonight. Junior guard Traevon Butler and senior guard Reggie Sidbury each added 11 points as well, with Butler also totaling four rebounds and four assists.

LIU Post (4-10, 3-2 ECC) featured two scorers over 20 points in guard Jemal Mosley (25 points, four rebounds four assists), and forward Greg Dotson (23 points, nine rebounds). Guard Jared Hall was also one point shy of a double-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

UDC (7-6, 4-1), the 12th ranked team in Division II for steals per-game and 17th ranked free-throw shooting team in the nation entering tonight, managed to win tonight with opportunistic defense (29 points off of 18 Pioneers turnovers) and 82-percent (14-of-17) free-throw shooting. Meanwhile, UDC turned the ball over only 11 times and LIU Post shot a meager 58-percent (7-of-12) at the stripe.

LIU Post, which led by as many as eight points late in the first half before losing its third straight game, had out-shot the Firebirds 53-percent (31-of-59) to 48-percent (29-of-60) from the field and 63-percent (12-of-19) to 46-percent (15-of-33) from long range, and the Pioneers out-rebounded UDC, 35-28.

The Pioneers raced out to an early 8-3 advantage after back-to-back three-pointers by Dotson and Mosley, but a timeout by head coach Mike Riley settled the Firebirds down as they regrouped and went on an 8-3 charge of their own to force an 11-all tie. After that there were three more lead changes and five more ties in the first half, but the Pioneers ended the opening stanza with an 11-4 surge to take a 51-44 lead into intermission.

Chandler opened the scoring with a three-pointer 47 seconds in, and it was all Firebirds for the first 10 minutes of the second half. UDC, helped by Chandler's 10 points and back-to-back three-pointers by Sidbury to cap the surge, would out-score LIU Post 27-9 to open the closing half and grabbed their largest lead of the night, 71-60 with just under 10 minutes left to play.

Mosley and Dotson would steer the Pioneers back, however, with a 14-5 run over a span of a little more than six minutes, cutting the Firebirds lead to two, 76-74 with just 3:32 left to play. Chandler stopped the bleeding with a pair of free-throws at the 3:20 mark, but LIU Post would cut the lead back to two twice more, including Hall's jumper at 1:36 to make it 80-78.

With the ball and a two-point advantage, UDC melted clock before Nickerson ultimately misfired on a three-point attempt with 1:02 on the clock, and the Pioneers had the ball with the chance to tie or go-ahead. Hall's layup rimmed out at 49 seconds, and Dotson recovered the offensive rebound only to turn the ball over four seconds later. On the ensuing Firebirds possession, Nickerson converted his next three-point attempt – a dagger that put UDC ahead 83-78 with only 20 seconds remaining.

UDC went on to convert four straight free-throws in the final 14 seconds to pull away, 87-78, and Mosley would knock down a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the final score, 87-81.

Next up for the Firebirds is their first road contest since November, as UDC travels to ECC foe NYIT on Saturday, January 7th for a 1:00 PM tipoff.