The University of the District of Columbia, the defending NCAA Division II national basketball champion, opened its season with an expected result last night.
After a five-minute warmup, the fast-breaking Firebirds held California State (Pa.) without a point for nearly seven minutes in the first half of a 104-63 rout of the visitors in the first round of the UDC Tip-Off Tournament at the Van Ness Physical Activities Center.
St. Augustine's jumped out to a 21-1 lead before its game was six minutes old and defeated Bowie State, 91-55, in the other first-round game.
UDC, which has won all 17 home games at its year-old complex, plays St. Augustine's for the tournament championship tonight at 8:30. The UDC women's team plays Georgia Southern for that championship at 6 p.m.
In consolation games, New York Tech plays St. Augustine's for third place in the women's tournament at 1 and Bowie State plays California State at 3.
As usual, UDC all-Americas Michael Britt and Earl Jones led the scoring, with 22 and 20 points, respectively. The hosts shot 63 percent (41 of 65), dominated inside and quickly dispelled any notions of a slowdown by the Vulcans.
"We thought they might try to slow the ball down on us," said guard Weaver Blondin, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half to help UDC break open the game. "We were kind of tight early, trying to show all these people (2,400) that we are champions. Once we got into the flow of the game, everything was fine."
The Vulcans, who handed the Firebirds a 56-55 loss last year, trailed, 8-6, before losing their shooting accuracy. The Firebirds forced nine turnovers and rebounded eight missed field-goal tries to take control.
UDC took advantage of State's scoring drought and ran off 13 unanswered points, six by Blondin, to go ahead, 21-8, with just less than 10 minutes played in the first half.
That was all UDC needed. The Vulcans continued to miss and the Firebirds began to make a variety of shots. Baskets by Blondin and sophomore transfer Neal Robertson (10 points) staked the hosts to a 46-30 lead at the half.
"That slow start was all jitters," said Britt, who had eight rebounds and four assists. "The coach told us to work on execution and defense. If we execute, the points will come."
The points came with ease in the second half. Whenever State's defense managed to keep the ball away from Britt and Jones, another Firebird would get an easy basket.