WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team earned its fifth straight victory as the Firebirds completed the season sweep of East Coast Conference foe Dowling with a 65-60 victory on Saturday afternoon at UDC Gym.
"Today was a good win," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "We didn't play our best today - and credit Dowling for that - but we made plays when we had to, and we pulled it out."
The Firebirds improve to 19-3 overall and 10-2 in league play while Dowling falls to 9-12 overall and 5-6 in the ECC. In other ECC action, C.W. Post defeated St. Thomas Aquinas, 73-63 to stay atop the league standings at 11-1.
Senior guard Nigel Munson (Washington, DC – DeMatha HS) led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field (4-of-7 from three-point range) and also registered six rebounds and four assists. Junior forward Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY – Bedford Academy HS) had another big performance in the paint as he came through with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds while also blocking five shots. Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD – McDonough HS) and Ziad Ashmawy (Cairo, Egypt – American City College) also scored 13 and 11 respectively, with Ashmawy also grabbing seven boards.
Munson knocked down two three-pointers on his first two shot attempts of the afternoon to put the Firebirds up 6-0 a little over a minute into the action, but Dowling answered with a 7-0 run to pull in front on a Justin Alexander (23 points, eight rebounds) layup at the 16:16 mark. The Lions led 9-8 at the 15-minute mark when Dishawn Bradshaw (Baltimore, MD – St. Frances Academy) buried an outside jumper to spark a 9-2 Firebirds run which gave the hosts a 17-11 advantage. But back came Dowling with six straight points to force the first of three first-half ties. UDC later used a 7-2 run to turn a 19-19 deadlock into a 26-21 lead after Munson completed a conventional three-point play at the 3:46 mark, but the Lions came roaring back to score eight of the final 11 points of the half to send the game into halftime tied up at 29-apiece.
The two ECC foes, who needed overtime to declare a winner the last time they met, would trade leads in the first few minutes of the second half, but UDC would distance itself a bit with a 9-3 run to extend its 38-37 lead into a more comfortable 47-40 advantage with 12:48 left to play. With the Firebirds still up 49-42 with under 11 minutes to go, Dowling went on a 9-0 charge over the next four minutes and took a 50-49 lead on a Leon Taylor (seven points, nine rebounds, three assists) layup with 6:35 to play.
The next trip down the floor for UDC, Jones earned a trip to the line and made a pair to put his team back up by one, 51-50, then rejected a Michael Hill shot attempt and grabbed the loose ball at the other end. Back up the floor came Munson, who floated a shot from the foul line up and in to push the Firebirds' lead to three at the 5:41 mark.
Dowling still would not go away though as Taylor hit a jumper and Alexander converted a layup on two consecutive possessions to give the Lions a 54-53 lead with 4:24 still to play. Four Firebird free-throws (two apiece by Herbert and Ashmawy) gave UDC a 57-54 lead just past the three-minute mark, but Hill's layup again cut the deficit to just one, 57-56 with 2:33 to go.
On the ensuing possession, the Firebirds went inside to Ashmawy, who used an excellent spin move in the paint and knocked down a clutch fade-away jumper with Dowling defenders draped all over him to once again extend UDC's lead to three points (59-56). On the ensuing Lions possession, Jones came up with another big-time shot rejection, then ran the floor where he was greeted with a beautiful feed from Munson for an easy layup to give UDC a five-point cushion. The Firebirds went on to win by that same margin, 65-60.
The Firebirds go on the road next to take on ECC foe Mercy College on Wednesday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m.