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Firebirds Battle to 84-80 Victory vs. Rival Bowie State

Shand scored 12 of his 17 in the 2nd half.
Shand scored 12 of his 17 in the 2nd half.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team earned an 84-80 victory vs. Division II local rival Bowie State Monday night in the nation's capital.

The Firebirds (6-4) led by as many as 16 in the first half and trailed by as many as six in the second half, but two separate second half scoring bursts enabled them to pull away victorious.

Bowie State (4-6) out-scored UDC, 14-3 over the first four minutes of the 2nd half to pull in front, 58-52, and the Bulldogs nearly came all the way back from 10 down in the final four minutes – coming within a possession twice in the final minute of regulation.

The home team has won the last four games of this series, with UDC claiming victories this year and in 2016, and BSU in 2015 and 2017. The final results of those last four meetings have all been within six points or less.

Junior transfer guard Zachary Olukanni led the Firebirds with 21 points on 6-of-14 FG shooting and 9-of-10 shooting at the foul line. He also collected six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Senior guard Kevin Cox was on fire in the first half, making 6-of-8 from the field (3-of-4 from three-point range), and 1-of-2 at the line for 16 of his 18-point total. Senior guard Danny Shand took over the reins in the 2nd half, scoring 12 of his 17 in the closing period while shooting 4-of-6 from the field and 3-of-5 at the foul line.

Another key UDC contributor was senior point guard Quadire Truesdale with 10 points, a game-high six assists, five rebounds, and a game-high three steals. Also, starting forward Aaren Smith led the team in rebounding with seven boards.

BSU featured three scorers in double-figures, including a game-high 23-point effort by reserve forward Cameron Hayes. In 22 minutes off the bench, Hayes shot 8-of-17 from the field (5-of-8 from long range) and 2-of-2 at the line, and he hauled in eight rebounds. Starting forward Saiquan Jamison registered a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, and forward Keith Duffin added 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Kerry Kirkwood buried two three-pointers within the first two minutes of the game and Cox later added five straight points to help UDC race out to a 13-3 lead a little over three minutes into the action. Cox continued his hot shooting with two more three-pointers, a layup and a free-throw to help UDC reclaim its double-digit lead, 24-14 around the 13-minute mark.

The Firebirds still led by 10, 45-35 with just under four minutes to play in the first half when Bowie State used a 9-0 spell to pull within one, 45-44 on a Jamison layup at the 1:28 mark. The Firebirds closed out the half on a 4-0 run though, and led 49-44 at halftime.

The Bulldogs came out strong in the 2nd half, transforming a five-point halftime deficit into their largest lead of the game, 58-52. Hayes scored the final eight points for Bowie during that momentous, 14-3 surge that gave the visitors their first lead of the game. But Truesdale stopped the bleeding with his 2nd three-pointer of the half, freshman guard Juanye Colon knocked down another, and Shand buried a third straight for UDC, and the Firebirds were back in front, 61-60 courtesy of the 9-2 response.

Back and forth the DMV rivals went, with BSU's David Belle forcing a 68-all tie at the 10:25 mark with a three-pointer. But that's when UDC put the game out of reach with its game-defining, 12-2 run, kicked off by six straight points by Shand and capped off with Kevin Cox's layup for his only two points of the 2nd half. UDC led 80-70 as the clock ticked under four minutes.

Still, the Bulldogs showed no quit, scoring eight consecutive points to pull within two, 80-78 on a Rinardo Perry layup with just under a minute remaining. BSU forced a miss on the ensuing possession, but the rebound went off a BSU player and possession stayed with the Firebirds and a brand new shot clock. The Bulldogs had to quickly foul Shand out of the inbounds pass, and the veteran calmly sank a pair of free-throws to make it a two-possession game, 82-78 with only 18 seconds left.

The next Bowie State possession, Perry misfired on a three-point attempt, and again the ball went out of bounds to UDC. Olukanni was the next up to shoot free throws for UDC, and he made 1-of-2 to make it a five-point game, 83-78.

Racing down the floor on the ensuing Bulldogs possession, Belle drew a foul by UDC with just seven seconds remaining. He made both free throws to make it a three-point game, 83-80, but the Firebirds managed to inbound the ball to the reliable Shand, who drew another immediate foul and made 1-of-2 at the foul line to extend the lead to two possessions, 84-80. UDC held on to win by that score.

The Firebirds out-shot their guests 52-percent to 42-percent from the field, and 76-percent (16-of-21) to 65-percent (13-of-20) from the foul line, and they out-scored the Bulldogs 36-28 in the paint. Bowie State had five fewer turnovers (20-15) and five more points off of turnovers (24-19), and it had the deeper bench with 39 bench points to UDC's 25.

Next up, UDC will host non-conference foe Holy Family University on Sunday, December 16th at 1 p.m.