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Albuquerque 103, Fayetteville 88 (F)

Thunderbirds Take Down Patriots

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., April 1 – The Albuquerque Thunderbirds rode a 15-3 third-quarter spurt – along with an impressive performance by point guard Tierre Brown – to break open a close contest and beat the Fayetteville Patriots, 103-88, in D-League action at the Crown Coliseum Saturday night. Brown played all 48 minutes, scoring 24 points, dishing out 16 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds, to lift Albuquerque to 24-21. Fayetteville drops to 15-31.

Brown normally shares point guard duties with Tony Bland, but Bland injured his back in a hard fall during Friday night’s loss against the Patriots.

“Tierre is an ultimate professional,” said T-birds coach Michael Cooper. “We had to rely on him for the whole game, and he did get a little tired there at the end. But he definitely did us more good than bad.”

The teams stayed close early on with neither able to amass a double-digit lead. Alex Acker had the hot hand for Fayetteville, nailing a three-pointer on the second possession on his way to a 15-point first half. But Marcus Douthit controlled the paint, scoring seven in the opening frame, and Albuquerque took a 48-47 lead into the break.

Then with the score knotted at 56-56 less than four minutes into the third, Brown led the T-birds on a tear that stopped the Patriots cold. In a five-minute stretch, Brown scored a pair of buckets, handed out two assists and stole the ball once, while Brandon Robinson scored seven of his 16 points and Albuquerque staked a 71-59 lead. Fayetteville never got closer than seven the rest of the way.

“We just didn’t stick to our gameplan, which was getting the ball inside,” said Patriots head coach Mike Brown. “We’re a better inside team than them, but we didn’t show it tonight. Maybe fatigue came into play with back-to-back games. But they also beat us to a lot of loose balls. The ball would bounce three or four times, allowing them to get to it.”

Tierre Brown hit 11-of-26 from the field and shot just two free throws in collecting his second triple-double of the season. T.J. Cummings added 17 for the T-birds and Marcus Douthit added 16.

“I’ll take the point guard shooting 26 times any night,” Mike Brown said. “What hurt us tonight is we just didn’t have the energy.” Acker led all scorers with a professional career-high 31. Erik Daniels added 19 and snatched 10 rebounds.

Fayetteville is out of the postseason picture, but the T-birds are in the middle of a five-team logjam fighting for what is likely to be three playoff spots. They have three games remaining, starting at Arkansas on Thursday. The Patriots play their last home game on Friday against Roanoke, and their final game Saturday in Florida.

“I figure if we win two of these last three, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Cooper said. “We just have to worry about ourselves and we’ll be alright.”