LIU tops new-look UMBC in 80-72 win

Three freshmen start, Okafor sits in 6th loss in past 7 for Retrievers

College Basketball

January 09, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Reeling from five losses in its past six games, the UMBC men's basketball team went with a different look last night - one that included three freshmen in the lineup and its second-leading scorer on the bench.

Even those changes couldn't prevent the Retrievers from continuing in the wrong direction. Long Island ran off 12 straight points, a surge that began with less than six minutes remaining, to take its final lead and an 80-72 victory over UMBC in a Northeast Conference game at RAC Arena.

The Blackbirds (3-10, 3-3) broke an eight-game losing streak behind the outside shooting of Ray Rivera and JaJa Bey, who were a combined 9-for-12 from beyond the arc. Rivera poured in 32 points and Bey added 19.

"I had open shots and kept nailing them," said Rivera, who was 6-for-8 from three-point range. "That's what we needed."

UMBC coach Tom Sullivan didn't insert senior forward Kennedy Okafor into the game until 8:55 remained in the first half, with the Retrievers leading 23-21.

Okafor was averaging 14.5 points, second to senior guard Terence Ward (17.9), and led the Retrievers in rebounding with 11.1 a game. His replacement, freshman Will McClurkin, had 10 points in the first half in helping UMBC (6-6, 3-3) to a 40-36 lead.

Okafor finished with eight points and 11 rebounds in 17 minutes. His tip-in with 2:50 left in the first half gave UMBC its biggest lead, 35-29.

Sullivan had watched two nights earlier as Okafor got into foul trouble early in the second half of a 95-91 overtime loss to St. Francis (N.Y.). McClurkin, at 6 feet 9, is two inches taller and matched up better against 6-10 senior Cheikh Fall, though he gave up 20 pounds.

"There was no particular reason," Sullivan said, adding that he'd probably stick with the same lineup Saturday against Mount St. Mary's. "I just think Will's been playing good [16 points overall last night], and he's going to be very good. Our seniors, I'm trying to give them as much opportunity as I can to go out the way they want to - going to a tournament - but we've got to play the kids who are playing the best."

Rivera, a senior guard from Bronx, N.Y., had 18 points in the first half to keep the Blackbirds close. UMBC moved in front again, 44-43, on a layup by freshman Peter Mulligan with 15:15 remaining and threatened to pull away. McClurkin hit a soft jumper in the lane, Mulligan made two free throws and Brad Martin scored on a driving layup.

Almost eight minutes elapsed in the second half before Okafor resurfaced. He immediately grabbed two rebounds on the defensive end before sinking two free throws. He made another one with 6:49 left that broke a 60-60 tie.

Bey nailed a three-pointer with 5:40 left that put Long Island in front to stay, 63-62. Rivera followed a missed free throw by Bey and hit a three-pointer while falling backward to give the Blackbirds a 68-62 lead. Bey made two free throws to continue the run, and a steal by Rivera brought a hard foul by Martin and two more points.

UMBC scored the next seven, including a three-pointer by Mulligan with 1:19 left that reduced Long Island's lead to 72-69. But Karim Smith made a free throw and the Retrievers committed a turnover on their next possession.

"I thought we were in pretty good shape at one juncture, but then we went dry at the foul line," said Sullivan, whose Retrievers were 10-for-24 from the stripe. "We really haven't put people away when there was an opportunity."

LONG ISLAND-Smith 3-11 3-4 10, Bey 7-12 2-3 19, Fall 3-6 0-1 6, Yearwood 1-7 5-6 8, Rivera 10-17 6-7 32, Leslie 0-1 0-0 0, Gary 1-3 0-2 3 , Knox 1-4 0-0 3, Beckles 0-0 0-3 0. Totals 26-61 16-26 80.

UMBC-Martin 4-8 1-5 9, Mulligan 6-9 3-4 17, McClurkin 7-18 2-4 16, Ward 1-8 2-2 5, Yates 2-2 0-0 5, Wilson 2-5 0-0 5, Giddens 2-5 2-3 7, Okafor 2-7 4-6 8. Totals 26-62 14-24 72.

Halftime-UMBC, 40-36. 3-point goals-LIU 12-21 (Rivera 6-8, Bey 3-4, Knox 1-2, Smith 1-3, Yearwood 1-4); UMBC 6-13 (Yates 1-1, Mulligan 2-3, Ward 1-3, Wilson 1-3, Giddens 1-3). Fouled out-Fall, McClurkin. Rebounds-LIU 40 (Rivera 8); UMBC 42 (Okafor 11). Total fouls-LIU 21, UMBC 23. Assists-LIU 12 (Yerwood) 8; UMBC 16 (Ward 5). A-532.

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