FLUSHING, NY – Senior guard Nigel Munson led the Firebirds with 21 points, but the No. 2 University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team suffered a 76-65 loss to No. 3 Bridgeport in the East Coast Conference semifinals Saturday night at Fitzgerald Gym.
District of Columbia (22-5), without its head coach Jeff Ruland due to illness, was out-scored 46-35 in the second half as the Firebirds lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Playing on a seven-day layoff, UDC shot just 31-percent from the field and an even colder 10-percent (2-of-21) from three-point range.
With the loss, the Firebirds were eliminated from their first-ever ECC Championship tournament and will now await the NCAA East Region Selection Committee's decision to determine whether or not they receive a bid to the NCAA East Regional Tournament. UDC entered this week ranked No. 23 in the nation and No. 6 in the East Region. The selection show will be streamed online via ncaa.com on Sunday, March 4th at 10:30 p.m.
Bridgeport (19-9), who became just the second ECC team to beat UDC twice this season, advances to the ECC Final with tonight's win, and the Purple Knights will take on No. 1 seed, C.W. Post tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
The Purple Knights had a 52-44 rebounding advantage and outscored UDC 40-30 in the paint. A free-throw shooting parade all night, Bridgeport cashed in for 29 free-throws on 37 attempts (78-percent) as a result of 27 Firebird fouls while UDC took 30 attempts and made 21 (70-percent). The nine more made free-throws made quite a difference as neither team shot well from the field (UB: 34-percent, UDC: 31-percent).
UDC uncharacteristically turned the ball over 16 times while combining for only seven assists. Bridgeport, the top team in the league in steals, had 10 thefts on the night including four by Darian David.
A First-Team All-ECC selection, David scored a game-high 25 points which included 12-of-14 FT shooting while fellow backcourt mate Hakeem Rodriguez netted 22 points to go with three assists. Second-Team selection William Harrison pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Firebirds were led offensively by All-ECC First Teamer Nigel Munson, who registered 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 39 minutes of action. Fellow ECC First Team selection Brandon Herbert notched his 27th straight double-figure game as he added 10 points and grabbed six boards before fouling out in the final minutes of regulation.
Ziad Ashmawy pitched in with eight points and nine rebounds but was limited to just 15 minutes of play due to foul trouble and ultimately was disqualified with 5:14 left to play in the game. Likewise, the ECC defensive player of the year, Dyrek Jones tied his school single-game record of 10 blocks and added six rebounds and four points, but played just 29 minutes before fouling out at the 4:30 mark.
The first half featured six ties and five lead changes, and the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms tied at 30-all. Rodriguez scored the first points of the half as part of an 11-2 Purple Knights attack to start the second half. Twice, UDC pulled within three points – including when Herbert made two consecutive buckets to make it 56-53 with 5:30 left to play. But Bridgeport responded with a 9-2 run, capped by an emphatic Lloyd Antoine dunk at the 2:46 mark to give the Knights their first double-digit lead of the night. Bridgeport's lead fluctuated between nine and 14 during the final two-and-a-half minutes as the Knights went on to complete the upset by a score of 76-65.