UNC-Greensboro tops UMBC

January 22, 1995|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Contributing Writer

UMBC's recent reputation for comebacks became UNC-Greensboro's biggest incentive yesterday.

On the strength of runs at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, the Spartans never allowed the Retrievers to find their niche and defeated UMBC, 80-69, in a Big South game before 1,117 at UMBC Fieldhouse.

It ended UMBC's six-game home win streak and its chance to come to within one game of league-leading UNC-Greensboro.

"We know that UMBC characteristically comes back," said UNC-Greensboro coach Mike Dement, whose Spartans shot 49 percent. "I looked at a game-by-game report of them and knew what they usually do. I kept telling my guys that they can come back and never let them forget it."

The Spartans (12-2, 6-0), who have won seven straight, outscored UMBC 13-3 to end the first half and take a 38-30 halftime lead, holding the Retrievers without a field goal for the final 4 1/2 minutes. Then, after UMBC (6-10, 3-3) made its first two baskets of the second half, UNC-Greensboro went on a 17-2 tear to go ahead 55-36 with 13:46 remaining.

"I'm very disappointed in our effort," said coach Earl Hawkins, whose Retrievers had come back from five and seven points down at halftime to win their past two conference home games. "You can't step on the floor and expect to win. We didn't execute and never had a chance to win that game in the second half."

UNC-Greensboro, which received 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Eric Cuthrell, relied heavily on its transition game. Off their break, the Spartans found open three-point opportunities on the wings and avoided the inside presence of 7-foot-2 UMBC center Pascal Fleury (seven blocks).

The three-pointers became instrumental as UNC-Greensboro made five of them in the two decisive runs. Six Spartans contributed to 12 three-pointers, which ties a season high.

"There was nothing that happened out there that we didn't know about," Hawkins said. "We knew that they hit the threes and not just one person shoots them. Our defense just didn't react."

The Retrievers seemed to have their comeback formula with them when they tied it at 18 at 8:03 in the first half on back-to-back three-pointers by Artie Walker and Tony Thompson cap an 8-0 surge. Thompson's layup off Vladimir Milosevic's steal 1 1/2 minutes later gave UMBC its first lead, 24-23.

After a dunk by Cuthrell, Walker connected on another three-pointer as the Retrievers reclaimed the lead for the last time, 27-25, with 4:42 left before halftime. As UMBC missed its last four shots, UNC-Greensboro scored on seven straight possessions to race to an eight-point lead at intermission.

"We took too many quick shots and never got into our offense," said UMBC point guard Eric Wyatt, who scored a career-high 24 points. "We missed a lot of three-pointers, which led to long rebounds and started their break. It seemed we were always defending three-on-two fast breaks."

Scott Hartzell, the Spartans' leading scorer who was shut out by Wyatt in the first half, carried the offense at the beginning of the second half. Hartzell (14 points, nine assists) produced seven points, including two three-pointers, as UNC-Greensboro made seven of nine shots in a four-minute stretch of the second half to pull ahead by 19 with 13:56 left.

During that same span, UMBC went 1-for-10 from the field. The Retrievers never cut the lead below 11 for the rest of the game.

"They have some great shooters and they didn't make mistakes," Wyatt said. "When you miss shots and make mistakes like we did against them, it doubles. And that killed us out there."

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