BRIDGEPORT, CT – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team's four-game win streak was ended with an 80-77 defeat on the road at the University of Bridgeport in East Coast Conference action from Hubbell Gym Wednesday night.
The Firebirds, who had won seven of their last eight games coming in, suffered just their 2nd league loss this season with tonight's defeat, as they fell to 10-7 overall and 7-2 in league play. The Purple Knights improved to 9-8 overall and 5-3 in the ECC with the win. Bridgeport also avenged a 100-92 loss to UDC on its home floor the last time these two met last season on February 13th, 2016.
Senior guard Kasim Chandler led four UDC players in double-figures with a game-high-tying 20 points, and he also pitched in four assists and three rebounds. Guards Reggie Sidbury and Traevon Butler were quiet in the first half, but Sidbury erupted for 14 of his 17 points in the second half and Butler, 10 of his 15. Meanwhile, the nation's leader in steals per-game, senior guard Joseph Nickerson, packed the stat sheet with 12 points, a team-best 10 rebounds, and game-highs of eight assists and four steals.
Bridgeport had only three scorers in double-figures, but two tied with UDC's Chandler for the game-high of 20 points. Forward Kyle Benjamin registered a double-double of 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and guard Stefano Usuji added 20 points and five rebounds. The two combined to shoot 16-of-28 from the field.
The Purple Knights out-shot UDC from the field by a slim margin, 48-percent (31-of-64) to 45-percent (29-of-65), with more than half of their total points (44) coming in the paint. The Firebirds, who held a lead as late as the 13:50 mark in the 2nd half, stayed in the game despite a 40-31 rebounding disadvantage and 10 fewer points in the paint by shooting way better from three-point range. UDC made 9-of-17 (53-percent) from behind-the-arc compared to UB's 4-of-18 (22-percent). The Firebirds also had three fewer turnovers (16-13) and cashed in for 25 points off of turnovers compared to Bridgeport's nine.
Chandler scored the first four points of the game on back-to-back layups – the 2nd layup coming on a fast break steal and assist from Nickerson. Bridgeport responded, however, with an 8-0 run to double-up the Firebirds, 8-4 almost three minutes in. Later, a three-pointer by Sidbury at 15:35 capped a 7-2 burst by the Firebirds and put UDC back in front, 11-10, but the Purple Knights went on to out-score their guests 19-8 over the next seven minutes and took the largest lead of the night for either team, 29-18.
The veteran-led Firebirds squad answered once again with a 12-2 surge and cut the Bridgeport lead to one, 31-30 with 3:43 remaining in the first half. They would end the half with just a three-point deficit, 35-32.
The Purple Knights got off to a quick start, out-scoring UDC 6-2 over the first two-and-a-half minutes and extending their lead to seven, 41-34. Again the Firebirds countered, this time with a 12-2 run that began with back-to-back three-pointers by Sidbury and Butler, and ended with a Sidbury dunk created by another Nickerson steal and assist. UDC was now in front, 46-43 with just under 14 minutes left to play.
Following a UB timeout though, Montana Mayfield ignited a 9-0 Purple Knights charge that UDC could ultimately never come all the way back from. Trailing 52-46 after that Bridgeport burst, the Firebirds scored six straight to force a tie at 52, and later forced another tie at 54, but a three-pointer by Sam Joseph at the 8:10 mark gave the hosts a lead they would never relinquish.
Still just a 68-64 Bridgeport lead with 3:46 remaining, the Purple Knights scored six straight points to push their lead to 10, 74-64 with only 2:16 left. Still, UDC fought its way back with a 13-2 run that began with a three-pointer by Chandler and ended with back-to-back three-pointers by Butler and Sidbury. Butler's three-pointer came with 33 seconds remaining to make it 76-74, and following a Carlos DeJesus layup with 10 seconds on the clock, Sidbury drained his 5th and final three-pointer of the night to make it a one-point game, 78-77 with just five ticks left.
UDC fouled Osuji with 2.4 seconds remaining, and Osuji converted both to make it a three-point game. The Firebirds' ensuing inbounds pass was thrown past midcourt and ended up in the hands of Sidbury, but his desperation heave from well behind the three-point line was off as Bridgeport held on for the three-point victory.
The Purple Knights improved to 5-2 on their home floor this year while UDC fell to 3-5 on the road. The Firebirds, still tied for 1st place in the ECC standings, are on the road for five of their final nine remaining games.
Next up, UDC visits ECC foe Daemen College on Saturday, January 21st at 3 p.m.