Michael Britt, held to one basket in the first half, broke loose for 18 points in the second half, making a twisting layup with 56 seconds left that gave the University of the District of Columbia a dramatic, 78-74 come-from-behind victory over St. Augustine's College in the Tip-Off Tournament's championship game last night before a capacity crowd of 2,800 at the Van Ness Physical Activities Center.
California State (Pa.) defeated Bowie State, 65-62, in the consolation game.
Britt's basket climaxed a tenacious rally that wiped out the 16-point lead St. Augustine held early in the second half. UDC, the defending Division II national champion and the owner of the nation's longest winning streak (13) coming into this game, couldn't handle the CIAA visitors and was in danger of seeing its 17-game home victory string broken.
But Britt, Greg Carson and Kenny Payne began to make their shots and the Firebirds (2-0) began creeping back. The Falcons cooperated by going nearly five minutes without a basket. That led to 11 unanswered points, one on a free throw by the Firebirds' Earl Jones, tying the game at 70 with 3:03 left to play.
The last two points in the spurt came on another basket by Britt, who followed up Carson's miss to put his team ahead for the first time.
"They could feel us coming back and slowed down," said Carson, who had 12 points. "We rushed our shots, didn't box out and let them get that big lead. But we started to press and force some turnovers."
St. Augustine's, which didn't miss much in the first half, regrouped behind guard Anthony Rogers (23 points) and slipped ahead, 74-72. But Jones, who played only 17 minutes because of fouls, tied the game at 74 on a tip-in. A minute 24 seconds remained.
UDC then came up with its most important turnover of the game. Jones deflected a Falcon pass, Carson picked up the loose ball and threw it downcourt to Britt. The senior took two dribbles, faked a defender off his feet and leaned in for the basket.
UDC had two chances to put the game away but both Payne and Jones missed the first of one-and-one free throws. Still, the Falcons rushed their shots and Jones came away with rebounds each time. Mike Daniels, who played a big part in the Firebirds' full-court pressure, sank two free throws with six seconds left to close out the scoring.
"We blew it," said Falcons Coach Harvey Heartly. "We tried to go to a slowdown when we were ahead, but we took some bad shots. That shouldn't have happened."
The Firebirds felt they should not have been behind, either. But the Falcons made 10 of their first 16 shots, got Jones in foul trouble and stopped Britt from working his magic inside. UDC trailed, 41-32, at the half.
"I knew we were in trouble when the guys couldn't understand what we were trying to do defensively," said UDC Coach Wil Jones. "They looked kind of confused. Jones being in foul trouble hurt us, too. We didn't play that bad, we just couldn't make any shots."
UDC shot much better in the second half, mainly because the Falcons couldn't stop Jones (13) inside and Britt and Carson on the perimeter.
"We needed that kind of game to bring us back to earth," said Carson. "It'll stop us from getting big-headed."
Said Coach Jones: "If they were overconfident, we'll fix that this morning with a practice. A very good practice."