WEST LIBERTY, WV – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team was defeated, 119-82 by the No. 7 ranked team in NCAA Division II, West Liberty St. University in non-regional action Tuesday night at the Academic Sports Recreation Center.
The Firebirds (1-9) held their own against the undefeated Hilltoppers (11-0) in the early stages of the game, as junior transfer guard Kevin Cox scored five early points off the bench to help UDC race out to a 13-5 lead. Freshman forward Maurice Waters shot 6-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 at the line to register 13 points in the first half, and junior transfer guard Danny Shand added half of his 14 points in the opening half as well. UDC led for nearly nine minutes to start the game and never trailed until the 11:15 mark in the first half.
Waters would finish with game-highs of 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots, Shand added 14 points and three assists, Cox pitched in 13 points and two steals, and senior guard Khalil Jackson contributed 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
West Liberty, meanwhile, featured seven scorers in double-figures as the leading scoring offense in the nation surpassed 100 points for the 8th time this season. Dan Monteroso led all scorers with 18 points on 7-of-15 FG shooting (4-for-4 FT), and he also contributed five rebounds, four assists and a game-high four steals.
Although both teams shot right around 49-percent from the field, the Hilltoppers converted 46 field goals compared to UDC's 32 because their 55-34 rebounding advantage (and 24-8 offensive rebounding advantage) allowed them 28 more shot attempts (93-65). The large rebounding disparity also led to 33 2nd chance points by West Liberty and just six by UDC.
A conventional three-point play by Shand at the 12:11 mark gave UDC a 20-15 lead, but five consecutive points by WL's Brandon Smith (15 pts) ignited a 23-5 march by the Hilltoppers and put the hosts in front, 38-25 at the 7:15 mark. Later, a three-pointer by Jordan Watson (13 pts, five assists, three rebounds, three steals) gave West Liberty its largest lead of the first half, 54-37 at the 2:27 mark, but the Firebirds closed out the period on a 10-3 surge to keep in striking distance, down 10 (57-47) at intermission.
Waters connected on back-to-back jump shots on his first two attempts to start the 2nd half, and despite a Dalton Balon (14 pts, five rebounds, two assists) three-pointer sandwiched between Waters' jump shots, UDC still only trailed by nine, 60-51. At that point though, West Liberty went on to out-score UDC 20-7 in a span of about seven-and-a-half minutes, and the Hilltoppers would take a commanding, 80-58 lead. The Firebirds would never get closer than 19 points the rest of the way, and West Liberty went on to win by its largest margin of the night, 119-82.
UDC will return to East Coast Conference play after the winter holiday break, as the Firebirds will visit Queens College on Saturday, December 30th.