UNC-Greensboro deals UMBC 7th loss in row, 80-63

February 20, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

Hopes are fading for a repeat of the revival UMBC experienced in its first Big South Conference tournament last March.

UMBC upset then-defending champion Campbell and took eventual titlist Coastal Carolina to the limit before bowing out of the tournament, capping a strong stretch run that provided optimism for this season.

But if the Retrievers don't shore up their act soon, they will have no momentum entering postseason play this time.

Yesterday at the UMBC Fieldhouse, they played another dull game and bowed to UNC-Greensboro, a team not eligible for the tournament, 80-63.

"Last year we were much farther along than we are now," said Retrievers coach Earl Hawkins after his team absorbed its seventh straight defeat, the longest such conference skid in the school's Division I history.

"Our major problem is our mental state. We just didn't play hard. You can't place the blame anywhere but on ourselves, the staff and the players."

UMBC (5-18, 4-11) must finish at least seventh to avoid the extra game between the eighth and ninth finishers that determines who faces the first-place finisher.

It doesn't look good, with title-contending Campbell coming to UMBC tomorrow, followed by two final league games on the road.

The Retrievers never led during the final 28 minutes, allowed five baskets on follow-up dunks by not blocking out properly and shot 33 percent from the field, including 3-for-23 from three-point range.

Their most seasoned guards, Skip Saunders and Spencer Ferguson, missed much of the second half because of an injury and a benching, respectively, and 7-foot-2 Pascal Fleury played seven minutes and had no impact after picking up what Hawkins thought were some uncalled-for fouls.

"The officials took him out of the game with awful calls," said Hawkins. "But we can't blame them for the loss. We just aren't executing our system. Our guys stood around and watched the other people play."

UNC-Greensboro (14-10, 10-5) clinched a winning season with a strong surge at the beginning of the second half that resulted in a 57-42 advantage. After that, UMBC never got closer than nine.

"We ran into some layups and broke their back a little with those dunks on follows," said Spartans coach Mike Dement. "This might be the best game we've played on the road, and it's the best we've played in the last five or six games."

Sophomore forward Eric Cuthrell led five double-figure scorers with 18 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for UNC-Greensboro, which will play in the tournament next March.

"Our guys are just trying to finish as high as we can," said Dement. "This is an opportunity to pretend like we're in it [the conference race] and have an impact on everybody else's seeding."

Meanwhile, UMBC is looking for some kind of spark to prevent a total collapse.

Asked what he told his team afterward, Hawkins said: "Nothing I haven't said all year. They have to want to give their all. If you don't give effort, nothing good happens."

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