UMBC handles Coastal Carolina

January 18, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

The UMBC Retrievers turned in their most impressive performance of the season in whipping defending Big South champion Coastal Carolina, 86-81, last night.

But it could be difficult to prove. An unofficial count of 61 spectators braved the ice storm to watch the Retrievers (3-9, 2-2) win their second straight conference game at the UMBC Fieldhouse.

But the slim crowd was treated to an outstanding defensive effort by the Retrievers. They limited the Chanticleers' senior forward Mohammed Acha, a preseason All-South choice, to six points, 13 below his average.

Acha, a Nigerian native, never got untracked. He picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and fouled out with 2.38 left after Coastal Carolina had cut an 18-point deficit to five (73-68) with three minutes left.

It took a late flurry of three-point shots by junior guard Kiki Hicks (26 points) to make the game deceptively close.

But five pressure free throws in the closing minutes by UMBC sophomore guard Felton Scott provided an eight-point cushion and guaranteed the Chanticleers' third straight loss. It capped a frustrating holiday visit to Baltimore by Coastal Carolina (7-6, 2-3), which also dropped an 80-74 decision to Towson State on Saturday night.

The Retrievers showed excellent floor balance, with five players in double figures. Senior captain Skip Saunders showed the way with 18 points. Scott and junior forward Kevin Bellinger chipped in with 15 each, with Bellinger also grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds.

"Bellinger went after every rebound tonight," said UMBC coach Earl Hawkins. "He's stepped up his game since we lost our best rebounder [academically ineligible] Sonique Nixon."

Said Bellinger, "I'm just working hard going to the boards. All of the upperclassman have been stepping up their games since we lost Nixon two weeks ago."

The Retrievers played almost flawless basketball during a six-minute span early in the second half. Leading 46-41, they outscored Coastal Carolina, 15-4, with Saunders, Bellinger and sophomore forward Damon Tweedy sparking the offense.

"That was our best stretch of basketball this season," said Hawkins, who has seen his Retrievers rebound from nine straight losses with consecutive victories. "We limited them to one shot and then worked hard to get good shots on the offensive end."

Hawkins credited Tweedy and junior forward Chris Thompson with shutting down Acha, who has a vertical leap of 40 inches.

"Our focus before the game was to control Acha inside and on the boards," Hawkins said. "We did that, and also made him work on the defensive end, forcing him to get into early foul trouble."

The Retrievers also controlled Hicks, who was averaging 22.2 points, for most of the game. He made only two of eight shots in the first half and needed 26 shots -- including 17 from three-point range -- to finish with his game-high 26.

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