The University of the District of Columbia, behind guards Neal Robertson and Lyndon DeBellotte, overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to defeat New York Tech, 82-71, yesterday in the first round of the UDC Thanksgiving Tip-Off Classic.
The host Firebirds play Elizabeth City State for the championship at 9 tonight. Elizabeth City beat Coppin State, 101-99, last night.
In women's play, Malissa Stephenson and Yolene Young each scored 18 points to lead UDC to an 81-72 victory over Fayetteville State. UDC plays for the title at 7 tonight against St. Augustine's. St. Augustine's, led by Kim Williams' 24-point performance, defeated Lincoln University, 94-63.
The UDC men fell behind quickly, as Tech combined the scoring of Morris Brown (18 points for the game) with the Firebirds' youth (10 new players) and inexperience to take control in the first half. The Bears got 10 offensive rebounds in the half for second shots. At 9:50 of the first half, UDC trailed, 24-10.
"We played tight and a lot of players, I guess, were kind of nervous," said Neal Robertson, UDC's only returning starter. He finished with 21 points. "But we overcame the butterflies and began to execute our plays."
The Firebirds finally relaxed towards the end of the first half.
Playing man-to-man defense, the Firebirds forced eight turnovers, including three on steals by Robertson, to cut the deficit to 42-39 at the half.
At the start of the second half, UDC made its first seven shots to take a 53-51 lead. The rally was led by Robertson who scored eight straight points, and sophomore guard DeBellotte who added six of his team-high 26 points as UDC took its first lead with 12:20 to play.
The Firebirds led the rest of the way, moving to a 74-63 lead with three minutes to play.