Composed Asheville dogs UMBC at finish Bulldogs use 10-2 run to beat Retrievers, 71-68

January 04, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Experience pays.

That cliche never proved more meaningful than yesterday at the UMBC Fieldhouse, where a veteran UNC-Asheville team used a 10-2 run in the last three minutes to overcome a five-point deficit and beat freshmen-dominated UMBC, 71-68, in the Big South Conference opener for both teams.

If nothing else, the Retrievers (5-6) earned the respect of coach Eddie Beidenbach and his Bulldogs (6-7), who were preseason favorites to win the conference title.

"Before the season started, I thought that UMBC would be one of the top three teams in our conference," Beidenbach said. "They may not play up to that level because of all their new players, but they certainly showed today they have the potential."

UMBC coach Tom Sullivan could not be terribly disappointed with yesterday's result, despite seeing his team's three-game winning streak ended. He will continue to force feed his four freshman starters -- Kennedy Okafor, Rich Giddens, Terrence Ward and Brad Martin -- and banks that their growing pains won't last too long.

After a shaky first half in which they shot 35 percent and trailed by eight (35-27), the Retrievers showed surprising maturity and poise in overtaking the Bulldogs, who featured three seniors and two juniors, including Josh Pittman, last season's Big South Player of the Year.

Led by the outside shooting of Ward, a shooting guard who crammed 16 of his 19 points into the second half, the Retrievers kept pecking away at the deficit.

UMBC took its first lead at 58-57 and stretched it to 66-61 on a three-pointer by Ward and two layups by Eric Poiesz, but then Asheville's experience became evident.

Burned for 18 first-half points by Pittman, the Retrievers concentrated their defense in stopping the Bulldogs' smooth-shooting captain. But that opened up lanes for Asheville's Kevin Martin.

Martin (19 points, eight rebounds) began the winning rally with a floater in the lane to cut the deficit to three. UMBC junior guard Rod Harrison then committed a turnover and Martin capitalized with a three-point play to pull the Bulldogs into a 66-66 tie with 1: 19 left.

After a timeout, Giddens attempted a baseline drive but stepped out of bounds. The Bulldogs patiently moved the ball until senior forward Robert Stevenson broke free in the lane and hit what proved to be the winning jumper with 26 seconds to play.

! Pub Date: 1/04/98

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