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Monday, December 31, 2012

UDC Men's Basketball Spirited Second-Half Comeback Falls Short in 91-90 Loss at UMass Lowell

December 30, 2012

Firebirds’ Spirited Second Half Comeback Falls Short in 91-90 Loss at UMass Lowell

LOWELL, MA  –  The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team rallied from a 21-point deficit with 17:08 left in regulation, to pull within one point of tying the game on three separate occasions, only to fall to non-conference foe UMass Lowell, 91-90 on Sunday afternoon at Costello Athletic Center.
With a depleted roster and its head coach Jeff Ruland ejected from the game after a double-technical foul at the 10:38 mark in the first half, the Firebirds (1-9) never showed any signs of quit. Four of their starting five scored in double figures, including junior transfer point guard Quasim Jones (Business Management – Philadelphia, PA/Johnson CC), who registered a season-high 24 points to go with seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Junior transfer guard Michael Terry(Criminal Justice – Philadelphia, PA/Boston U) shot 8-of-15 from the field to finish with 21 points and five rebounds as well. Senior transfer forward D'Angelo Johnson (Mass Media – Washington, DC/Virginia St.) had yet another solid outing with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, and senior guard Keith Brooks (Journalism – Queens, NY/Monsignor McClancy HS) added 13 points.
The Riverhawks (7-2) were led by starting guard Akeem Williams, who led all scorers with 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the field (2-of-3 from long-range). Romeo Diaz came off the bench to score 17 points and grab five rebounds, starting forward Antonio Bivins added 16 points and eight boards, and the other starting forward Kennedy Chukwuocha pitched in with 10 points.
Johnson scored five points in the opening minutes to help the Firebirds claim an early 10-4 lead with a little more than three minutes played, but a 16-2 Riverhawks blitz over the next 3:52 resulted in a 20-12 UMass Lowell lead at the 13-minute mark. District of Columbia responded with a 5-2 run, all five of the points scored by Jones, and cut the deficit in half, 21-17 with 11:37 left in the first half. But things took a turn for the worse when UML's Williams knocked down a jumper at the 10:41 mark to make it 23-17, and Ruland was subsequently slapped with a double-technical foul which ousted him from the game. Williams went on to sink four consecutive free-throws, and then the Riverhawks got a steal and an easy layup at the other end to complete what amounted to an 8-0 run in just over a minute. The Riverhawks would lead by as many as 18 in the half before settling for a 51-36 advantage at intermission.
UMass Lowell did not let up to start the second half, out-scoring the Firebirds 9-3 over the first 2:52 of action when play resumed to take its largest lead of the afternoon, 60-39 with 17:08 left to play. A steal followed by a fast-break layup by Michael Terry would then ignite an 8-0 Firebirds surge to cut the deficit to 13, 60-47 nearing the 14-minute mark. Still trailing 69-56 at the 11-minute mark, consecutive baskets by Brandon Ennis followed by a Terry three-pointer resulted in a 7-0 run that brought the Firebirds within six, with 8:25 to play. Then, after the Riverhawks had grown their lead to nine (74-65), Terry converted two consecutive layups which brought District of Columbia within five, 76-71 with just under five minutes showing on the clock.
The UML lead would hover between four and seven for nearly the next four minutes when Jones converted a conventional three-point play with 55 seconds left to pull the Firebirds within two, 86-84. District of Columbia then sent Greg DeSantis to the line with 47 ticks left, and he made 1-of-2 to make it a three-point game. On the ensuing Firebirds possession, junior transfer Ralph Watts(Sociology – Peekskill, NY/UAlbany) grabbed one of his team-high eight rebounds after a missed three-pointer by Keith Brooks, and made a layup for his only points from the field that day to make it a one-point game, 87-86.
Again the Firebirds fouled DeSantis, who sank both to up the Riverhawks lead back to three, 89-86 with 25 seconds remaining. The Firebirds once again made it a one-point game when D'Angelo Johnson followed Quasim Jones' missed layup with a good layup of his own at the 14-second mark. The Firebirds scored 13 second-chance points in the second half (18 for the day). Johnson was fouled on the play, but could not convert the game-tying free-throw, and so the Firebirds still trailed 89-88.
Antonio Bivins grabbed the rebound on the missed free-throw by Johnson, and he was immediately fouled by Terry. Bivins missed both his free-throws, but UMass Lowell's Kennedy Chukwuocha came up with a crucial offensive rebound to retain possession. Chukwuocha then went on to miss both his free-throws as well, but the game's leading scorer, Akeem Williams came up with yet another offensive rebound for the Riverhawks with just 10 seconds now remaining. He sank both to make it 91-88, and the Firebirds, in their final possession, could only manage a put-back layup by Johnson at the last second to make it a final score of 91-90.
Both teams shot extremely well, but the Riverhawks held the edge in field goal shooting (56-percent to 48-percent) and three-point shooting (40-percent to 36-percent). The Firebirds shot much better, percentage-wise at the free-throw line (82-percent to 68-percent) but the Riverhawks actually made three more free throws (25-22) as a result of 26 fouls called on District of Columbia. District of Columbia had a better assist-to-turnover ratio (15/11 to 16/15) and scored 19 points off of turnovers for the day. The Firebirds also held a 42-32 advantage in points in the paint despite UML's slight, 34-32 rebounding edge. However, with just three substitutes rotating in, the Firebirds bench combined for just 10 points while the Riverhawks' six reserves tripled that in perhaps the game's most telling statistic.
The Firebirds will look to end their eight-game losing slide as they enter back into East Coast Conference play on January 5th at NYIT. Tip-off is a 3 p.m.

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