OLD WESTBURY, NY - The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team erupted for a season-high scoring out-put as the Firebirds cruised past NYIT on the road Wednesday night, 109-73.
"Anytime when you can have that many guys in double-figures and you play a little defense - good things are going to happen," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "[Assistant coach] Terrell Stokes suggested at halftime that we play a little zone defense, and it worked because we caught them in a little dry spell which let us go on that run and gain more momentum."
Six different Firebirds scored in double-figures, including a game-high 20 points by senior guard Nigel Munson (Washington, DC - DeMatha HS). Junior guard Keith Brooks (Harlem, NY - Monsignor McClancy HS) also pitched in with a season-high 18 points which included 4-of-5 shooting from behind-the-arc.
District of Columbia improved to 18-3 overall and 9-2 in the East Coast Conference with tonight's win. The Firebirds have now won four straight games. Meanwhile, NYIT fell to 8-12 overall and 5-6 in league play.
The opening 30 seconds of action set the tone for what would be a three-point shooting parade the rest of the night. NYIT's Azel Prather, Jr. knocked down a trey for the first points of the game, and Munson answered right back with a three to tie it. Munson's three-pointer sparked a 12-0 Firebirds run which culminated in an and-one layup by Ziad Ashmawy (15 points, five rebounds, three assists) to put UDC in front, 12-3 near the 17-minute mark.
The Bears marched back with a 9-0 run over the next four minutes to tie the score at 12-all on a Jahleel Felix layup, and a see-saw battle ensued for nearly the next seven minutes. But after an Antoine Brown layup put NYIT up 27-26 just before the seven-minute mark, a pair of Ashmawy free-throws gave UDC the lead for good. The Firebirds would close out the final seven minutes on a 19-6 spell highlighted by six Ashmawy points. They led 45-33 at halftime and took all the game's momentum into the locker room.
Once again the Bears struck first in the second half on a three-pointer by Jahari McKnight to close within nine, but Ashmawy went right back to work on the offensive glass, laying it in for two off an assist by Munson. The Firebirds went on to score the next 11 points as part of a 13-0 run to extend their lead to 58-36.
UDC simply kept pouring it on from that point on, as the Firebirds made eight of their 12 three-point field goals in the second half en-route to their highest-scoring half since January 15th, 2011 when UDC scored 67 points in the second frame to beat Central State (Ohio), 110-100. Brooks scored 15 of his 18 points, junior Brandon Ennis (Ontario, Canada - Brampton) scored all 12 of his points, and Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD - McDonough HS) scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, as UDC cruised to a 36-point victory, 109-73.
The Firebirds are back home at UDC Gym on Saturday to take on ECC foe, Dowling. UDC needed overtime to defeat the Lions, 71-68 when these two teams last met in Oakdale, NY back on January 7th.