Bellinger leads UMBC past Winthrop, 78-75

January 30, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

The big man is academically ineligible, and the mad bomber has missed the past four games with a knee injury.

What remains at UMBC is a deep but inexperienced squad, one that is looking for someone to ask for the ball at crunch time. The Retrievers may have found him in junior forward Kevin Bellinger.

Three nights ago, Bellinger scored a career-high 26 points, and yesterday at UMBC Fieldhouse, he collected team-high totals of 20 points and 14 rebounds in the Retrievers' 78-75 Big South Conference victory over Winthrop. Bellinger's driving basket with seconds left clinched it.

UMBC had a nine-game losing streak Jan. 12, but the Retrievers (5-11, 4-4) have won four of their past six. Earl Hawkins is still tinkering with his rotation but believes that production from Bellinger is a must.

"A lot of people can lead us on any given night," Hawkins said, "but given the production Kevin has had lately, he's our go-to guy. He's better than he was at the beginning of the season, and a lot better than he was two years ago. The only thing stopping Kevin is Kevin."

Bellinger, a 6-foot-7, 230-pounder from Brooklyn, N.Y., who starred at the Thomas Jefferson High program that earlier put out Sidney Green and Lloyd Daniels, averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds as a freshman and 5.5 and 4.1 last year. His first two years at UMBC were spent in Sonique Nixon's shadow, but the senior center was declared academically ineligible just as the Retrievers were beginning their conference schedule, and the load on Bellinger grew.

"I was a role player my first two years here," said Bellinger, who lately has prospered coming off the bench in the third or fourth minute. "Soni's gone, Skip [Saunders, the team's leading scorer] is hurt and we've got a lot of young guys who hadn't played college ball before this year. The upperclassmen have to step it up. I always felt I could produce like this, and now I have to."

Bellinger's big week followed a missed curfew in North Carolina that forced him and seniors Matt Butts and Spencer Ferguson out of last Monday's game at Campbell, the Big South leader.

In the process of making amends by pounding on UNC-Asheville and Winthrop, Bellinger raised his averages to 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds.

The Retrievers made five three-pointers in the first half yesterday and led 43-29 two minutes into the second half.

The outside game opened space for Bellinger on the block, and he scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half.

Bellinger wasn't alone inside either, as 7-2 junior Pascal Fleury rolled eights, getting that many points, rebounds and blocked shots.

The block total bettered the UMBC record and matched the Big South record.

Winthrop made 12 three-pointers, but Fleury's long arms left the Eagles 11 of 46 (23.9 percent) inside the stripe.

Sophomore guard Felton Scott made five of six field-goal attempts and scored 11 points, and freshman Eric Wyatt had all 10 of his in the first eight minutes.

One conference record was set outright, as Winthrop forward Steve Nappar, a freshman out of De Matha, hustled for 22 rebounds.

The Eagles, who fought back from a 15-point deficit, got 22 points from Jamie McVay, 20 from Melvin Branham and 19 from LaShawn Coulter.

McVay, who was whistled out of bounds just before attempting an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer, and Coulter combined to hit 11 of 21 three-pointers.

The Retrievers play at Towson State on Wednesday, a game that was postponed Jan. 19, then play at their fieldhouse against Liberty (Saturday) and Radford (Feb. 7).

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