Defense saves UMBC in OT, 115-107

March 08, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Defense, UMBC's glaring weakness this season, was the Retrievers' saving grace yesterday.

It was what enabled them to slip past Central Connecticut State in overtime, 115-107, in a first-round East Coast Conference tournament game that broke three tournament scoring records at UMBC Fieldhouse.

That was the opinion, anyway, of UMBC coach Earl Hawkins after a 22-14 overtime spurt sent the fourth-seeded Retrievers (10-18) into today's 1 p.m. semifinal game against top-seeded Hofstra (19-8).

"We put a little more pressure on and got some turnovers," Hawkins said about the decisive five-minute stretch.

This was a game of dramatic swings and a few bad falls. In the scariest moment of the afternoon, UMBC's junior forward Dion Andrews careened into a courtside table for reporters in the second half and hit the back of his head.

The game was stopped for 15 minutes while Andrews' neck was stabilized and he was taken out of the arena on a stretcher. He was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where X-rays were negative.

UMBC officials said that Andrews had feeling and movement in all his limbs. He was not kept at the hospital overnight, but is doubtful for today's game.

Then, about 10 minutes after Andrews was hurt, official James Huggard limped off the court -- and out of the game -- with a pulled calf muscle.

"The game went on for an eternity with the injury to the official and players," Hawkins said.

The Retrievers survived with any number of heroes. There was forward Brian Watkins scoring 26 points, tying his career high, and handing out seven assists. There was forward Derell Thompson scoring 25 points and Skip Saunders sniping for 18. There was center Sonique Nixon taking 20 rebounds while shooting only 3-for-14. And there was point guard Dana Harris contributing 14 assists and 11 points.

But it was their defense that the Retrievers said they felt made the difference against a Central Connecticut team that played most of the game without its two best rebounders.

UMBC finished sixth in the seven-team ECC in defense this season -- just scant percentage points ahead of Central Connecticut -- giving up 87 points a game.

"The first half we weren't playing up on the ball," Watkins said. "[Central Connecticut] could see the floor and do what it wanted to do. Once we started playing our defense in the second half, we got a lot of easy buckets."

UMBC's pressing defense forced only five turnovers in the first half, and the Retrievers fell behind, 56-49. The deficit went to 60-49 in the first three minutes of the second half before UMBC's defense kicked in.

Then in the space of 1:42, UMBC got six layups to forge a 61-61 tie.

The lead changed hands four more times before a free throw by Watkins tied the score at 93 and sent the game into overtime.

Central Connecticut took its only lead of overtime when Watkins made a bad pass and then fouled the Blue Devils' Marc Rybcyzk on the ensuing basket. That gave Central Connecticut a 98-97 lead with 3:26 to play.

But Watkins made amends with two free throws and a layup to make it 101-98, and Thompson finished UMBC's 6-0 run with a 16-foot jumper.

UMBC made its last 12 free throws down the stretch to preserve the lead.

Hofstra, which beat UMBC twice this season, presents a similar, if tougher, challenge for the Retrievers.

"Central Connecticut used a different offense and spread the floor today," Watkins said, "similar to what Hofstra does."

"[Hofstra] had time to rest and watch us," Hawkins said. "I'm sure they're confident they can beat us. But the two times we played, we didn't play as well as we could. I'm confident we can win."

NOTES: UMBC's total of 115 points broke the ECC tournament record of 109 set by Lehigh in a double-overtime win over Drexel in 1987. The record lasted just one game. The two-team total of 222 also broke the league record of 207, held by Lehigh and Drexel in 1987. UMBC's 44 field goals also established an ECC standard.

Central Connecticut Min FG FT R A PF Pts

Williams 34 5-9 0-0 2 2 5 12

Francis 45 4-9 0-0 9 5 5 8

Leichner 17 3-4 1-2 4 1 2 7

Johnson 44 16-23 6-7 4 8 2 38

Corbitt 40 6-16 5-6 6 10 4 18

Montrose 00 0-00 0-0 0 0 1 00

Connell 1 0-00 0-0 0 0 1 00

Rybcyzk 19 5-12 1-1 1 2 0 14

White 25 5-8 0-1 6 2 0 10

Totals 225 44-81 13-17 39 30 25 107

Percentages: FG -- .543; FT -- .765. Team rebounds: 39 (Francis ** 9). Three-point goals: 6-12 (Williams 2-2, Corbitt 1-5, Rybcyzk 3-5). Blocked shots: 2 (Francis & White). Turnovers: 20 (Corbitt 8, Johnson 6, Francis 4, Leichner 1, White 1). Steals: 10 (Johnson 3, Corbitt 3, Rybcyzk 2, White 1, Williams 1). Technical fouls: Corbitt.

UMBC Min FG FT R A PF Pts

Thompson 40 9-19 6-6 8 1 2 25

Watkins 36 11-16 4-6 6 7 4 26

Nixon 40 3-14 2-3 20 1 1 8

Harris 32 3-7 5-7 0 14 3 11

Saunders 36 6-13 3-4 3 3 2 18

Ferguson 12 1-2 0-0 2 2 3 3

Wright 5 3-4 1-2 1 0 0 7

Andrews 4 4-6 0-0 2 0 2 8

Walker 17 4-6 2-3 3 2 1 10

Fasaye 3 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 00

Totals 225 44-89 23-31 50 30 18 115

Percentages: FG -- .494; FT -- .742. Team rebounds: 50 (Nixon 20). Three-point goals: 4-17 (Thompson 1-6, Harris 0-1, Saunders 3-8, Wright 0-1, Walker 0-1). Blocked shots: 8 (Nixon 3, Ferguson 2, Walker 2, Harris 1). Turnovers: 19 (Thompson 6, Watkins 4, Harris 3, Nixon 2, Saunders 1, Thompson 1, Ferguson 1, Wright 1, Fasaye 1). Steals: 10 (Nixon 3, Saunders 3, Watkins 2, Thompson 1, Harris 1). Technical fouls: none. Halftime: Central Connecticut 54, UMBC 49. A: unavailable.

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