Sunday, November 10, 2013

Men's Basketball: Franklin Pierce 105 UDC 86

Senior Quasim Jones (#11) led all scorers with 28 points

Firebirds Fall Behind Early, Lose Home Opener by 19

Mike Riley made his head coaching debut this afternoon against a polished Franklin Pierce Ravens team that advanced to the NCAA Division II Final 8 last season. So much for a "cream puff" schedule. The UDC Firebirds fell behind early, and couldn't quite catch up... losing 105-86 in their home opener before an announced (and energetic) crowd of 350 at the University Sports Complex. Senior guard Quasim Jones scored 28 points to lead all scorers.

The Rams (2-0) jumped all over the home team, running out to a 10-0 lead, less than two minutes into the game. After that, UDC (0-1) had a hard time getting in any kind of rhythm (offensive or defensive) shooting a dismal 38.5% from the field while giving up almost 53% to their opponent. The visitors dominated the paint as well, getting to the charity stripe 17 times (versus just two attempts for UDC) and converting 16 of those tries. Senior Ellis Cooper was especially dominant, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in just 13 minutes of first half action.

Great debut for Seton Hill transfer Lenjo Kilo (18-9)

UDC went into the locker room, down 20 at half; but credit Riley for making several key adjustments that helped the Firebirds outscore the Rams 49-48 in a highly competitive second half. UDC committed just one turnover in the final 20 minutes, while coming up with five steals of their own (including two by Ziad Ashmawy, who returned after missing most of last season with a serious leg injury.) Ziad's high energy was a welcome addition (so were his seven rebounds) but he was rusty from the field (1-8) as was star guard Michael Terry (12-5-5) who shot an uncharacteristically poor 3-16 for the game.

Head coach Mike Riley talks strategy
On the positive side, junior transfer (Seton Hill) and local product (Silver Spring) Lenjo Kilo made a big splash in his first game as a Firebird. The former Northwood High star scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and provided a big spark (and even bigger yell, on one particular drive to the basket.) He could be a huge addition to the Firebirds relatively weak front court: At 6'6, Kilo is the tallest player on the team. Kilo connected on 7-10 shots from the field, and 4-5 from the free throw line.

Don't bet on Terry having another bad game like this; and I'm sure Riley will continue to tinker with his lineup (someone besides Jones & Terry will have to step up, and score from the outside.) UDC returns to action this Saturday at home vs. East Stroudsburg (1-0) at 3:00 PM. The Warriors are defending PSAC champions, and have advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament two years in a row. Note to Riley: Maybe one cream puff on the schedule wouldn't hurt? See you next weekend.

Click here for today's box score.