MANCHESTER, NH – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team led by as many as 10 points in the 2nd half, but host Southern New Hampshire University out-scored UDC, 38-14 to close out the final 11:44 of regulation and hand the Firebirds an 84-69 season-opening loss Saturday night in the Tip-Off Classic at SNHU Field House.
Four of the Firebirds' (0-1) starting five scored in double-figures, including a team-best 16 points and three assists by junior transfer guard Danny Shand. Another junior transfer guard, Quadire Truesdale, pitched in with 14 points, three assists and a game-high three steals, and senior guard Traevon Butler added 12 points, two steals and one blocked shot.
Senior guard/forward Khalil Jackson was a force in the paint all night as he registered his 3rd career point-rebound double-double with 10 points to go with a team-high 11 rebounds and a game-high six blocked shots.
UDC had no answer in the paint against SNHU big men Chris Walters (25 points, nine rebounds) and Daquaise Andrews (21 points, 13 rebounds), as well as Dimitri Floras with 18 points, five rebounds. Those three helped the Penmen out-rebound UDC 45-30, out-score the Firebirds in the paint, 46-26, and more than double-up UDC, 12-5 in 2nd chance points. Forty-four of their combined 64 points came after halftime.
SNHU (1-0) also out-shot UDC, 49-percent (30-of-61) to 39-percent (22-of-57) from the field and 50-percent (7-of-14) to 33-percent (19-of-26) from three-point range. The disparity in field goal shooting only slightly favored SNHU in the first half (48-percent to 47-percent), but the Penmen grossly out-shot the Firebirds in the 2nd half, 50-percent to 28-percent.
In a back-and-forth opening half, SNHU led 19-18 with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining when a 7-2 spurt opened up a 26-20 advantage for the hosts. The Penmen lead was 30-25 with more than three minutes to go when UDC closed the half on a 13-3 run - with five points from Butler and four from Jackson – to take a 38-33 advantage into the break.
The Firebirds would then score the first five points of the second half to open their largest lead of the contest at 43-33 less than two-and-a-half minutes in. At that point, however, a Floras layup and three-pointer sparked an 8-3 run that trimmed the deficit to 46-41 with 14:19 to go. Then, after UDC had stretched the lead to 55-46 with 11:44 remaining on the clock, the Penmen ripped off 14 straight points to grab a 60-55 lead with just under nine minutes to play.
UDC kept in striking distance with a pair of free-throws by Jackson at the 7:24 mark to pull within three, 62-59, but a 13-3 run – with five points from Walters and three from Floras – widened the gap to 13 at 75-62 with 4:12 remaining. SNHU went on to score seven of the game's final 10 points to seal the win, with Floras accounting for five of them.
The Firebirds are back in action tomorrow for a neutral site game again at SNHU Field House vs. Franklin Pierce University at 4:30 p.m.