St. Francis capitalizes on UMBC shortcomings

Use of zone defense, lack of depth lead to 77-64 loss

February 13, 2000|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Faced with an identity crisis and diminished bench, the UMBC men's basketball team succumbed to the inevitable last night at home against St. Francis (N.Y.) College.

The Retrievers' 77-64 Northeast Conference loss was yet another setback in their war of attrition this season.

"You can't play at this level without depth," coach Tom Sullivan said after UMBC (9-14, 5-8) yielded more ground in its bid to earn a berth in the eight-team NEC postseason tournament field.

The Retrievers couldn't match St. Francis' bottomless bench, but that was only part of the problem. They couldn't handle the Terriers' Steven Howard, either; his 40 points were the most surrendered by UMBC since 1998. And the Retrievers couldn't keep St. Francis off the offensive glass, where it collected 23 of its 49 rebounds.

They couldn't in a 2-3 zone, anyway, and that's where the identity crisis comes in. The Retrievers would rather play man-to-man defense than zone, but are forced to go extended periods using a 2-3 alignment because of a 10-man roster that counts five freshmen and numerous defections.

"We're a man-to-man team," Sullivan said. "Unfortunately, we lose a little focus [in the zone]."

The Retrievers rolled up a 17-9 lead in the game's first seven minutes playing man. But when they went to the zone midway through the half, the offense disappeared and St. Francis, with relentless full-court pressure, launched its comeback.

Not even a season-high 27 points from Terence Ward could prevent the Retrievers' slow but steady slide. Ward had 15 of the team's 30 second-half points, but went cold with seven minutes left and UMBC trailing by only 56-54.

Ward missed a pair of threes and was called twice for traveling while St. Francis (14-8, 9-3) went on a 10-0 run. The Retrievers went without a point for 5: 39 in that stretch, and more than six minutes without a field goal.

"I have to give them credit for constantly coming at us," Ward said of the drought. "I had some shots I should have made. The two walk calls were inexcusable. They were rotating men on me and I was fatigued."

Ward couldn't keep pace with Howard, the Terriers' shooting guard and junior college transfer from Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y. Howard hit 13 of 28 shots and took 12 rebounds -- 10 offensive.

"They did a good job of isolating him against us in the post," Ward said, "and if he wasn't open, he passed off."

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