February 4, 2012

Second-Half Surge Sends University of the District of Columbia to Seventh Straight Win; Firebirds Defeat Queens, 72-48

FLUSHING, NY – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team out-scored host Queens College 33-7 over a 14-minute span in the second half as the Firebirds soared past their seventh straight East Coast Conference foe with a 72-48 victory on Saturday evening at Fitzgerald Gym.

"We came out very passive and flat in the first half…I think being off for a week was a big part of why we were out of sync," head coach Lester L. Butler, Jr. said. "But we picked it up in the second half with great defense."

The Firebirds improved to 17-3 overall and 8-2 in league play with the win. They tied their season-high win streak with seven straight wins and completed the season sweep of the Knights. Queens fell to 1-20 overall and 0-11 in the conference.

Junior guard Janelle Junior (Riverside, CA – La Sierra HS) led the Firebirds with game-highs of 18 points and five assists. Senior guard Lauren Brittingham (Washington, DC – Potomac HS) added 14 points and five assists, Dohnay Banice (Wilmington, DE – Williamson HS) registered 11 points and seven rebounds, and Denikka Brent (Chesapeake, VA – Booker T. Washington HS) pitched in 12 points and six boards.

"Janelle and Lauren shot the ball very well today," Butler said of his two guards who combined to shoot 12-of-22 from the field and 8-of-16 from three-point range. "Denikka played with a lot of energy and gave us a spark in the second half coming off the bench. She is playing with a lot more confidence now, and we are going to need her to play well the rest of this season."

Queens, which led by as many as eight points in the first half, fell to 1-20 overall and 0-11 in league play. The Knights were led by Nicole Caggiano, who scored 14 of her team-high 16 points in the first half. Cadie Chu also added 10 points.  

Both offenses struggled early on, but two Banice layups had the Firebirds up 9-4 near the 13:30 mark. UDC led 11-7 just past the 12-minute mark when Caggiano scored 12 straight points on five consecutive baskets to put Queens up 19-11. The Firebirds then retaliated with a 10-0 run, ignited by five straight points by Junior. Jasmine Rich's layup completed the run and put UDC up 21-19 with 2:40 to play. UDC out-scored Queens 7-4 the rest of the half, as Ty Abilla (Galloway, NJ – Absegami) intercepted a pass near half-court and took it to the rim for an easy two just seconds before the half to give the Firebirds a 28-25 advantage at the break.

The Knights' Caitlin Hopkins scored the first points of the second half on a layup 24 seconds into the action which cut Queens' deficit to just one. The hosts would make it a one-point game twice more during the first three minutes of the second stanza, but a three-pointer by Junior sparked a 12-0 Firebirds surge, and UDC led 44-31 after a Banice layup at 14:26. Cadie brought the Knights within nine on a layup at 9:51 when the Firebirds used a three-point shooting barrage to put the game out of reach. First Brittingham made back-to-back treys, and then Brent and Junior each made one from behind-the-arc all during an 18-0 run that gave UDC its largest lead of the afternoon, 65-38 with 3:20 left to play. The Firebirds then cruised to a 24-point victory, 72-48.

The Firebirds held a 44-percent to 38-percent shooting advantage from the field and doubled up the Knights in three-pointers, 10-5, making 40-percent of their 25 attempts. They also won the rebounding battle 40-31, pulling down 17 offensive boards and scoring 14 second-chance points. UDC also forced the most turnover-prone team in the ECC into 23 turnovers which they cashed in for 29 points. Also, Butler's bench continues to thrive, outscoring Queens' reserves 21-6.

UDC will look to win its eighth straight game as the Firebirds visit ECC foe NYIT on Wednesday, February 8th at 4:50 p.m.