For years the University of the District of Columbia used a blazing fast break to overtake its opponents, but it's no longer a sure thing.
Last night the Firebirds opened with a 10-2 run in the championship game of UDC's annual Thanksgiving Tip-Off tournament, but quickly cooled and could not keep pace. Elizabeth City State relentlessly moved up and down the court and won, 91-79.
"We are going through a different transition phase right now," said second-year UDC coach George Leftwich, whose club beat Roger Williams a night earlier, 115-72. "We want to fast-break, but we're still in the in-between stages.
"We just hit a cold spell and we weren't making anything from the outside. They were forcing us to shoot from the outside, but when we hit that cold streak, that was the difference."
Henry Moton (26 points for the second straight game) connected on a barrage of three-pointers to keep the Firebirds decently close in the first half, but he had trouble making free throws, and so did his teammates.
The Vikings (2-0) were grateful, as they continually pushed the ball forward to score off soft pull-up jumpers, turning nearly every UDC mistake or missed free throw into a basket to build a 44-36 lead at halftime and 63-42 cushion with 11:58 to play after Ronald Cousar (13 points, 10 rebounds) dunked off the break.
Inside the lane is where the Firebirds really fell prey, as the Vikings, behind John McNeil (19 points) and Nate Higgs (19 points, nine rebounds and four blocks), banged UDC's big men out of the way and scored off numerous second chances.
In the consolation game, some of the Roger Williams players seemed as if still stuffed from Thanksgiving and Dillard University (1-1) ran them ragged, 102-82.
Roger Williams (0-4) didn't threaten to make a final run, but the Hawks' Vincent Godwin (36 points) put on a game-ending show, popping three-pointers and scoring off scoops inside.
"We just came in a little undersized, but we gave it our best shot," said Godwin, a former standout guard at Mackin High School.