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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Firebirds Use Team Effort to Hold Off NYIT, 77-70

December 18, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team used a collective team effort to hold off East Coast Conference foe NYIT, 77-70 on Wednesday evening in the nation's capital.
The Firebirds, currently the top team in the "Others Receiving Votes" category of the USA Today/WBCA Coaches' Top-25 Poll, improved to 8-1 overall and stayed unbeaten in league play at 4-0 with today's win. NYIT, which had won three of its last four games including its last two, fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league play.
UDC had five different players reach double figures in scoring, and five different players collected at least five rebounds in the absence of the team's leading rebounder, sophomore forwardTatyana Calhoun (Environmental Science – Disputanta, VA/Sussex Central HS), who was out with a shoulder injury. Junior transfer guard Telisha Turner (Criminal Justice – Wilmington, DE/Harcum) scored a team-high 20 points while also registering season-highs of six rebounds and five assists. Junior forward Denikka Brent (Mechanical Engineering – Chesapeake, VA/Booker T. Washington HS) posted 11 points and five rebounds, sophomore forward Tiara Goode (Criminal Justice – Brentwood, NY/Brentwood HS) and senior transfer center Milena Bubnjevic (Criminal Justice – Leskovac, Serbia/Leskovacka Gimnazija) each pitched in 10 points and six rebounds and senior point guard Teara Shaw (Health Education – Bronx, NY/Indian River St.) added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and a game-high three steals.
The Bears were led by the outside shooting of senior guard Alex Venuto and the interior play of reserve forward Dina Ragab. Venuto shot 7-of-16 from the field and 6-of-14 from long range for a game-high 24 points while Ragab played 24 minutes off the bench and added 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Starting forward Shannon Duer also finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, including a game-high seven on the offensive glass.
Venuto knocked down the first of her game-high six three-pointers for the first points of the game about 30 seconds into the action to help the Bears race out to an early 10-5 lead. Following a Firebird timeout though, UDC tied the score with a 5-0 run highlighted by a three-pointer by Bubnjevic. With the score knotted at 10-apiece with a little over four minutes gone by, Venuto buried two consecutive three-pointers and Maddison Campbell added a layup as part of an 8-0 NYIT run to go up 18-10 at the 14-minute mark. For the next six minutes, the only scoring by either team came on a pair of free-throws by Brent, but UDC rattled off another 13 unanswered points in a three-minute span after that, and built itself a 25-18 advantage with about five minutes left to play in the first half. The Bears came charging back, however, holding UDC scoreless in that final five minutes except for a layup by Shaw with nine seconds left. NYIT closed out the first period on a 12-2 surge, culminating in the fourth three-pointer of the half by Venuto just seconds before the buzzer, and the Bears led 32-29 at halftime.
The Firebirds came out with a head of steam in the second half, opening on a 7-1 run, capped by sophomore guard Tajruba Baldwin-Kollore's (Public Health – Newport News, VA/Denbigh HS) jumper to put UDC in front, 36-33 at the 16:36 mark. Back came the Bears though, with a 7-0 march that put them back ahead, 40-36 after a pair of Venuto free-throws near the 14-minute mark. Back-to-back running jumpers by Goode (who's 10 points was a season-high) helped stop the bleeding and evened the score at 40-all, and Brent later made 1-of-2 at the line to give UDC a 41-40 advantage just past the 12-minute mark. The lead would change hands four more times before Brent's layup at the 9:29 mark put the Firebirds ahead to stay, 47-46. Baskets by sophomore transfer guard Myla Somerville (Criminal Justice – Loveville, MD/Bowie St.) and senior guard Julissa Anderson (Criminal Justice – Greensboro, NC/Southeast Guilford HS) helped grow the lead to five, (51-46) at the 8:48 mark, but Venuto closed the gap to two with her first three-pointer of the second half (fifth of the game). Turner came right back down the floor for the Firebirds and spot up for a clutch three-point answer. Then, following an NYIT turnover, Anderson connected on a three-point dagger to make it, 57-49 UDC with 7:18 remaining. The Firebirds maintained a lead between four and 10 points the rest of the way and won by a comfortable seven-point margin.
UDC out-shot their guests 41-percent (28-of-68) to 32-percent (22-of-68) from the field and 35-percent (7-of-20) to 24-percent (8-of-34) from long-range. The Firebirds were also the more efficient passing team with 14 assists to 14 turnovers compared to NYIT's 16 assists and 21 turnovers. UDC out-scored NYIT 34-24 in the paint and 26-13 on points off turnovers.
The Firebirds, who currently sit atop the ECC standings, have over two weeks off for the winter holiday break before they host non-conference foe American International on Saturday, January 4th 2014 at 1 p.m.

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