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UDC Men’s Basketball Succumbs to Pre-season ECC Favorite, 88-72; Unable to Withstand 2nd Half Bridgeport Blitz

Colon led the Firebirds with 20 points off the bench.
Colon led the Firebirds with 20 points off the bench.

BRIDGEPORT, CT – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team was defeated, 88-72 by host University of Bridgeport in both teams' East Coast Conference season opener Wednesday night at Hubbell Gym.

The Firebirds (5-3, 0-1 ECC) led by as many as seven in the first half and took a five-point advantage into halftime, but they ultimately had their five-game win streak snapped when the Purple Knights out-scored them 55-34 in the closing half.

Bridgeport, which had scored over 100 points in all its previous four victories, managed to win tonight by holding UDC to the lowest point total of any opponent this season. The Purple Knights, favored to win the ECC in this year's preseason poll, improved to 5-2 overall and 1-0 in the conference.

Freshman guard Juanye Colon led all scorers with a season-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 shooting from behind-the-arc. Colon, who played 33 minutes off the bench with senior guard Quadire Truesdale hampered by foul trouble, also collected four rebounds and three assists.

Sophomore forward Fatir Hines also had a big night with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists, and junior guard Zachary Olukanni pitched in 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Senior guard Kevin Cox led the team in rebounding with nine boards – eight of which came on the defensive glass.

Bridgeport featured two starters and three bench players scoring in double-figures. Starting guard Travis Robinson-Morgan led the Purple Knights with 18 points while making 7-of-11 from the field (4-of-6 from long range), and starting forward Bakary Camara registered 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. The Purple Knights' bench, which out-scored UDC's, 43-31, included John Middleton with 17 points, Vakas Iqbal with 16 points, and Jayden Iturmendi with 10 points. Those three shot a combined 17-of-22 (77-percent) from the field and 6-of-7 (86-percent) from three-point range.

UB forward Hashem Abbas also played a pivotal role in the win with a team-best nine rebounds to go with nine points.

UDC, debuting their new bright red Under Armour uniforms, shot red-hot from the field in the first half, making 14-of-28 and 5-of-10 from behind-the-arc. Colon led the way offensively with 14 of his 20 in the opening half, Hines scored nine of his 13, and Cox was crashing the boards with five of his nine rebounds. The Firebirds might have led by more at halftime were it not for 6-of-11 (55-percent) free-throw shooting, but settled for a 39-34 advantage at the break.

Bridgeport opened the 2nd half on a 14-3 blitz over nearly six minutes. The run, which transformed a five-point deficit into a six-point lead, was capped by a Robinson-Morgan three-pointer to put the Purple Knights in front, 48-42. UDC responded with an 11-4 surge as Truesdale's fade-away jumper from the elbow put the Firebirds back in front, 53-52 at the 11;38 mark.

In less than a minute's time, however, Bridgeport used a 7-0 run to reclaim the lead and pull ahead by six, 59-53. Still, UDC continued to fight, keeping within a two-possession game for the next few minutes before forcing the 7th and final tie of the game, 70-all, on the strength of Colon's 6th and final three-pointer of the night at the 5:39 mark.

But beginning with a Bakary Camara layup at the 5:19 mark, the Purple Knights scored 11 consecutive points, and they'd go on to out-score the Firebirds 18-2 to emphatically close out the game. UDC shot 1-for-9 from the field with one turnover during that stretch, allowing the hosts to cruise to victory.

Next up, UDC will host ECC foe Mercy College on Saturday, December 8th at 3 p.m.