UMBC edges Lehigh, ending 10-game skid Simms' 15-point 2nd half sparks 72-67 victory

January 16, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The game had the look of so many others for UMBC. The Retrievers took an early lead, lost it and began dropping out of sight. An 11th straight defeat loomed.

This time, something went right.

Freshman Alhamisi Simms scored 15 points in the second half last night, and the Retrievers overcame poor shooting and foul trouble to dispose of Lehigh, 72-67, at UMBC Fieldhouse.

It was UMBC's highest point total of the season. The Retrievers are 2-12 and begin a three-game trip Thursday at Radford.

Simms made two free throws with 3:12 left to give UMBC the lead for good, 61-59. They were part of a 10-0 run that moved the Retrievers in front by seven and assured their first victory since early December.

"I took my open shots like I do in practice, and I just hit them tonight," said Simms (18 points), a Severn School graduate who made four of his five attempts from beyond the arc in the second half. He picked up his fourth foul with 9:31 left but stuck around until the end.

Good news came to UMBC before the opening tap. Its leading scorer, senior Tony Thompson, was able to play after missing the previous game with a sprained ankle. He wasn't 100 percent, but it was difficult to tell.

Thompson had 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals before fouling out with 1:55 left. He set a UMBC Division I record by scoring in double figures in 16 straight games.

"At the beginning, we didn't want to take any quick shots," he said. "In the second half, we started to push it up and look for the guards on the wing. They took some shots, and they fell for us."

Senior center Kevin Bellinger scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Junior forward Marc Lay had three points, but his six assists made him the 15th player at UMBC to go over 200.

Kem Widmer led Lehigh (3-10) with 18 points.

The Engineers were shooting 65 percent from the line, but made 25 of 32 last night. They took an 11-point lead with 13:50 left, then cooled off long enough for UMBC to make its run, which included Thompson's steal and pass to Kenya Merritt for a layup and Thompson's three-point play.

Lehigh twice got within four points, but the Retrievers, who shot 39 percent from the field, wouldn't be denied. The losing streak is over -- not that coach Tom Sullivan was counting.

"I don't look at streaks. I know we weren't winning, but I really look at what our next game is and how we're going to prepare for it and how we're playing," he said.

"I'm still not terribly happy with the way we're playing, and I think one of the things that's causing that is we just haven't come together and focused on who has to do what and who should be getting the shots. Our chemistry is off a little."

Lehigh was coming off a 14-point victory over Army but was missing leading scorer Rashawne Glenn (16.6 ppg), a senior guard who has a sprained ankle.

The Engineers started three freshmen, including guards Sean Tuohey and Brett Eppehimer. Tuohey made their first field goal, but it didn't come until 6:55 had elapsed and UMBC had a seven-point lead.

Lehigh shot 35 percent from the field and committed 10 turnovers but managed to lead by one at halftime. The Engineers hit 16 of 18 from the line to stay close until Eppehimer drove the lane and scored with 2:41 left to give them their first lead, 24-23.

UMBC had bigger problems than a small deficit. Bellinger and Simms each picked up three fouls. Bellinger had 10 points in the half, doing most of his damage down low on the baseline.

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