BRIDGEPORT, CT - David Saunders' potential game-winning three-point attempt at the end of regulation was blocked by the Purple Knights' Dante Menter as No. 22 University of the District of Columbia suffered a 77-75 loss on the road at the University of Bridgeport on Saturday afternoon.
"Credit Bridgeport as they certainly deserved to win with the way they played today," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "I hope we learned our lesson that anybody in this conference can sneak up on us."
The first loss of the season to a Division II opponent snapped District of Columbia's East Region-best 11-game win streak as the Firebirds fell to 13-2 overall and 4-1 in the East Coast Conference. Bridgeport improved to 10-6 overall and 5-1 in league play as the Knights extended their win streak to three games in what was the first-ever meeting between these two schools.
Senior guard Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD - McDonough HS) was one of four Firebirds to score in double figures as he registered 18 points and went over 1,000 points for his illustrious collegiate career.
Dishawn Bradshaw (Baltimore, MD - St. Frances Academy) led all UDC scorers with 19 points, Nigel Munson (Washington, DC - DeMatha HS) recorded 17 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Keith Brooks (Harlem, NY - Monsignor McClancy) hit 9-of-10 from the free-throw line to finish with a season-high 11 points. Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY - Bedford Academy) pulled down a team-high 11 boards to go with six points and five blocked shots.
Bridgeport was led by the second leading scorer in the conference, Darian David, who burned UDC for 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists. William Harrison and Hakeem Rodriguez also scored 14 and 10, respectively.
After 10 lead changes and one tie in the first 10 minutes of action, Bridgeport took the lead for good, 13-12 on a jumper by Howard Lyles at the 10:14 mark. Lyles would go on to make two consecutive layups as part of a 10-2 Purple Knights charge which put the hosts up 21-14 at the 8:48 mark. Later, two Herbert free-throws cut the Firebirds' deficit to five with 6:15 to go in the half, but Bridgeport upped its lead to 10 with a 7-2 surge that included a three-pointer by William Harrison. Lyles, who scored all eight of his points in the first half, penetrated the Firebird defense and converted an acrobatic layup just before the buzzer to give the Knights their largest lead to that point, 39-28.
The Purple Knights looked as though they would run away with the game as they opened the second half on a 7-1 run and led by the largest margin of the afternoon, 46-29 with 18:47 still to play. But back came the Firebirds, scoring 17 of the next 23 points over the next 6:16 to close the gap to six. UDC, which had shot 0-for-9 from behind-the-arc in the first half, canned four three-pointers during that run, including two by Bradshaw.
Still trailing by 10 with just under three minutes to play, the Firebirds used one last frantic run to fight their way back into the game. An aggressive UDC full-court press forced a series of Bridgeport turnovers resulting in three consecutive Firebird trips to the foul line. Brooks and Jones combined to make 4-of-6 from the stripe, then Brooks came up with a steal and dished to Herbert for a fast-break layup, and UDC was within four, 72-68. Then, following an and-one layup by UB's David, Bradshaw buried another three to keep it a four-point game with 37 seconds showing on the clock.
The Firebirds quickly fouled Lyles on the inbounds pass, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Munson quickly worked the ball up the floor and drew a reaching foul still 30 feet away from the basket. He made both his free-throws to make it a two-point game, 75-73. Again UDC fouled, this time sending David to the line to shoot two. David missed the first and made the second, as it remained a one possession game, 76-73 with 21 seconds left in regulation.
On the ensuing Firebirds possession, Munson was dribbling around the three-point line when he was whistled for a double-dribble call, and the ball went back to UB with 14 seconds left. Once again, the Knights failed to make it a two-possession game as Dante Menter missed both his free-throws, and UDC called timeout with 11 seconds left and the ball, still trailing by three.
Bridgeport elected to foul out of the timeout, sending Herbert to the line with six seconds left to shoot two. He sank both to make the score 76-75, and UDC fouled Menter again with four ticks left. Menter made the first and missed the second as Philip Izevbehai (Long Island, NY - St. Thomas More Prep HS) corralled the rebound. He quickly passed to reserve guard David Saunders (Upper Marlboro, MD - Paul VI Catholic HS), and Saunders hoisted a deep, game-winning three-point attempt from the top of the key, but it was rejected by Menter as time expired.
UDC shot 50-percent from the floor in the second half, which included 8-of-15 from long-range, but that was not enough to make-up for a dismal first half that saw the Firebirds get out-shot 55-percent to 29-percent from the floor. The Firebirds were also out-rebounded, 39-34 and outscored in the paint, 44-16.
The Firebirds will look to bounce back on Wednesday, January 18th as they host league foe Mercy College at 7:30 p.m. Fans who cannot make the game can watch a live video webcast via www.udcfirebirds.com.