UMBC turns up pace, downs Liberty

February 14, 1993|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

To say the UMBC Retrievers have rode the roller coaster of inconsistency this season would be an understatement.

But in a season of highs and lows, last night's game against Liberty proved the most dizzying of all.

After shooting just over 20 percent for the better part of the first half, the Retrievers turned up the intensity and turned on their transition game, shooting their way past Liberty, 90-85, in a Big South Conference game.

"When you're as up and down as we are, we needed a game like this for our confidence," said UMBC guard Skip Saunders. "It's the first step to turning the corner. We've just been trying to be positive about everything."

Against a Liberty team which began the day third in the conference, the hot shooting of Saunders made that easy.

Saunders sank seven of 10 three-point attempts -- tying a school record -- and scored 25 to help the Retrievers break a three-game losing streak.

Saunders was unstoppable in the second half, scoring 15 and hitting everything he shot, including one shot from about 25 feet.

"I think the guys just came out and played mentally tough," said coach Earl Hawkins, whose Retrievers trailed 41-31 at the half. "They just weren't going to be denied."

And it showed.

The Retrievers forced seven Liberty turnovers in the first 8:38 of the second half, turning most of them into fast-break baskets.

"They just did a tremendous job out of the locker room," said Liberty coach Jeff Meyer. "They used defensive pressure to get the game at a higher pace. Once they got it there, they played great in transition. At their best, they can run with anybody."

The win improved UMBC to 8-13, including 5-7 in Big South play, where they began the day in seventh place. For the players and coach alike, a change in momentum heading into the conference tournament was a must.

"This was a very big win," said Hawkins. "It was a confidence builder. It showed that we can beat one of the best teams in the conference."

Liberty (14-10, 8-5) was led by forward Parish Hickman with 19 points and guard Jody Chapman with 17. The Flames had five players in double figures, including 6-foot-10, 245-pound center Julius Nwosu, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the first 11 1/2 minutes.

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