Saturday, January 18, 2014

Men's Basketball: Queens 69 UDC 50

Lenjo Kilo slashed his way to 19 points & 7 rebounds

Six is Not Enough

Mike Riley's first season as head coach of the UDC men's basketball team has been far from easy. Take injuries... costly ones, that have stripped Riley of 3/5 of his starting lineup for almost the entire season. Today's ECC contest with lowly Queens College was the fourth straight game where the Firebirds took the court, dressing just six players. The game before that? Seven... What a luxury. Sadly, UDC lost a game it normally would have won walking away, falling 69-50 to a Knights team that came in with a record of 1-13.

The Firebirds may be short-handed; but Riley has gotten maximum effort from what he has left. Junior sensation Lenjo Kilo led UDC with 19 points and seven rebounds; and sophomore Omar Abbas added 14 points, despite shooting 4-17 from the field. Abbas was especially effective at drawing fouls... at least seven by my count, possibly more.

Clenso Brannon III stayed aggressive (2 blocks, 6 rebounds)

UDC (3-11, 1-7 ECC) led early on 4-0; but were outscored 16-4 in a 7+ minute stretch, en route to a 35-20 halftime deficit for the home team. The Knights dominated the boards 19-8, and outshot UDC 56.5% to 34.8%. They also held the Firebirds to one assist (Kevin Campbell.) Kilo shined, scoring nine points... including a contested three-pointer, to go along with four rebounds. Am I the only one still dreaming about a frontcourt of Kilo and Dyrek Jones? I can't wait to see who Riley finds this summer, to team in the front court next season with the athletic 6'6 forward.

Kevin Campbell had just 1 turnover in 39 minutes

Riley's "fearless six" fared much better in the second half, cutting a 23-point lead to 13, thanks to an impressive 42.9% from long range (6/14) and a renewed effort to pass the ball (six assists.) Abbas & Kilo each scored 10 points, with Campbell and junior guard Prince Ritson adding another five points each. When UDC finally gets healthy (perhaps as late as next season) they're going to have a deep bench, filled with battle-tested players who never quit. It doesn't negate the pain of this year's injuries; but it's something to build on.

Omar Abaas (#4) drew a crowd... and lots of fouls

Today's loss hurt... As I said, there's no way Queens beats a healthier Firebird squad. Still, it's nice to see Riley displaying patience and positive reinforcement through difficult times. It's clear to me that Riley is a teacher first & foremost, and UDC is lucky to have him (although I wish he'd wear the burgundy sweater more often... I swear; It's lucky.) Riley and co. return home on Wednesday to host UDC's Homecoming game vs. Bridgeport (Knights again, this time purple) at 7:00 PM. Bridgeport is 7-8 overall, but 5-4 in the ECC. Perhaps Reggie Sidbury returns for this one: We could use the extra body, not to mention his 11.1 PPG and astounding 47.2% 3-pt shooting.

Click here for today's box score.