UMBC gets tough on St. Francis in 69-58 win

2nd-half inside game lifts Retrievers over Red Flash

January 18, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

If St. Francis (Pa.) could have gotten it together last night, the Red Flash might have had a chance to beat UMBC at the Retriever Activity Center.

Then again, if the reeling Retrievers could have played even 25 minutes of good basketball, their 69-58 margin of victory would have been larger.

As it was, both teams indulged in sloppy basketball -- UMBC's defined by 19 turnovers, St. Francis' defined by 23 percent shooting in the second half -- but the Retrievers' strengths trumped those of the Red Flash and resulted in a Northeast Conference victory.

After losing four of its previous five games, UMBC (6-8, 2-2) easily could have dropped into a tie for ninth place in the league if it had continued to match backcourts with a quicker St. Francis team (5-9, 2-3) as it did in the first half.

Instead, with a 30-27 halftime lead owed mostly to 15 points and 3-for-5 three-point shooting by Terence Ward, the Retrievers left the perimeter game behind and are in better shape heading into games against Mount St. Mary's and Sacred Heart, teams with a combined record of 3-22.

"There were areas where we didn't match up well to them, but there were areas where they didn't match up well to us," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said. "In the second half, we did a better job of getting the ball inside."

Of the first 19 points that UMBC scored in taking a 49-34 lead with 9: 24 left in the game, 16 came on plays inside the paint. With the team shooting 54 percent in the second half, Brad Martin, Kerry Martin and Kennedy Okafor combined for 24 of the team's 39 points.

The Red Flash fought back, and moved to within five at 58-53 with 2: 32 left after a pair of free throws by its leading scorer, Jamal Ragland, who finished with 21 points. But UMBC knocked down nine of its last 11 attempts from the line to preserve the victory.

"The areas they beat us in were effort areas," St. Francis coach Bobby Jones said, referring specifically to the seven shots that Kerry Martin blocked and the 16 rebounds that Okafor pulled down. "The thing that we didn't have was the toughness."

Ward led the Retrievers with 21 points -- sharing game-high honors with Ragland and providing what turned out to be the go-ahead basket, a three-pointer that gave his team a 28-25 lead with 1: 04 left in the first half.

"Terence hit a couple of shots," Okafor said, "and that opened it up for us."

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