R. Morris jumps out to 69-51 win over UMBC Retrievers get acquainted with 4 freshmen, soph

November 19, 1997|By Brant James | Brant James,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There is comfort in constancy, but not if you've been constantly losing as the UMBC men's basketball program has the past three seasons. With a combined 11-43 record with the Retrievers his first two seasons at UMBC, head coach Tom Sullivan is hoping things change behind the four freshmenand sophomore he will start this season.

Eventually the Retrievers' fortunes may change, but they stayed much the same as in year's past last night in their season opener, as Robert Morris ran off with a 69-51 victory at UMBC Fieldhouse.

"The fear with playing freshmen is when they get behind and get rattled it's tough to get their heads back in the game," Sullivan said. "I think we got caught standing around a little tonight, and we just couldn't match Robert Morris' intensity."

The Colonials (1-1) settled the matter early by running out to a 40-18 halftime lead, using physical man-to-man defense and the Retrievers' freshman shooting jitters to full benefit.

UMBC shot 22 percent (6-for-27) in the first half, 26 percent (14-for-54) for the game and nine percent (2-for-22) on three-point attempts.

UMBC finally got comfortable midway through the second half when the game was out of reach, and cut the deficit to 14 points with 8 minutes, 1 second left when center Kennedy Okafor banked in a layup. Robert Morris held the Retrievers scoreless for the next four minutes, however, to eliminate any further comeback hopes.

"I guess we just came together there and said, 'This is too much,' " Okafor said. "Then we got our composure."

Freshman Rich Giddens led the Retrievers with 10 points, seven in the second half, and classmate Tim Hyland added nine. Sophomore Isaac Green, the Big South Rookie of the Year last season, grabbed 10 rebounds, but was in constant foul trouble and finished with just four points -- all on foul shots. Robert Morris center Chris Hopkins led all scorers with 17 points as one of three Colonials with double-digit point totals.

The teams traded baskets in the first four minutes of the game, each unable to penetrate the other's sticky man-to-man defense. Robert Morris slowly began to pull away, however, when it was able to pop in offensive rebounds the few times it did make it through the Retrievers.

UMBC was never able to solve the Colonials' man-to-man, and saw possession after possession die at the high post when freshman point guard Terence Ward was unable to distribute the ball. The fault was not entirely Ward's, as the combination of a physical Robert Morris defense and the inability of his teammates to work without the ball compounded matters.

"There were a couple of times when he got caught thinking too much," Sullivan said. "He was looking over to see what play we were in when he should have been pushing it."

Junior point guard Rod Harrison (Dunbar) gave UMBC some stability in 18 minutes of duty.

UMBC's inexperience was evident at several moments as six freshmen played double-digit minutes. Green, UMBC's stately veteran starter, at times found himself instructing his young teammates where they should have been on certain plays.

"Being a leader I have to act like I'm a senior," he said. "I have to let them know they can't get away with it over and over again."

Robert Morris made its key run of the first half -- a 16-2 run over six minutes to the 4: 01 mark of the half -- with three starters out of the lineup. Hopkins gave the Colonials a 26-10 lead and prompted the Retrievers to request a timeout with 5: 57 left when he grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a fallaway, 12-foot jumper from the baseline.

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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