Mount, Whitaker get past UMBC

In his first game of season, 6-10 center scores 18, hits winner in OT, 80-79

January 14, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Melvin Whitaker came all the way back in one game last night.

The 6-foot-10 center inspired Mount St. Mary's with his mere presence at first, then showed the skills that make him perhaps the best player in the Northeast Conference, climaxing his return with a driving layup with eight seconds left in overtime that subdued UMBC, 80-79, at RAC Arena.

Sidelined since the 1999 NEC tournament first by a broken ankle, then academic deficiencies, Whitaker finished with 18 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes as the Mount (4-11, 4-3) extended UMBC's losing streak to five, including four straight in its home arena.

"I knew this day would come," Whitaker said. "I had to just keep fighting, just like in a game. I've had a few turnarounds in my time; we all get a few bumps on the road. Now, I have a different outlook in the way things will go."

Mount St. Mary's trailed 79-76 after Justin Wilson hit a three-pointer for the Retrievers before Aaron Herbert fed Angel Rivera for a layup to trim the margin to one with less than a minute to go. Wilson then drew a foul from Rivera on a drive - but as happened virtually all night - UMBC couldn't convert at the line, leaving the Mount an opening.

After a 30-second timeout, the Mount went to Whitaker on the right side for the winning basket.

"We were looking for two," coach Jim Phelan said, "and we were looking to go inside to Melvin."

That wasn't sufficient yet. Wilson came back again with a drive, but Herbert tied up the ball, which was awarded to Mount St. Mary's with 1.6 seconds on the clock. UMBC never regained possession.

Both teams squandered big chances to win in regulation after a jumper by UMBC's Will McClurkin tied the score at 72. The final opportunity was the Mount's but Whitaker couldn't convert from the corner and Herbert's bank shot at the buzzer bounded off the front of the rim.

Whitaker said he didn't expect to be so productive.

"I really wasn't looking for any particular outcome other than to just be a plug in the game," he said. "My teammates enjoy me when I'm giving my best and they reassure me. I just did it."

"He's had a lot more days off than everybody else," Phelan said. "He was fresh and wants to play. We were figuring about 20 minutes. Fortunately, he was in there for the 10 minutes we needed him."

Herbert pitched in with 17 points for Mount St. Mary's, compensating for an off-performance in the team's previous visit to Baltimore, his hometown.

UMBC (6-7, 3-4) was in many ways its worst enemy. The Retrievers missed 22 of 38 free throws and received virtually no offense from their top long-range shooters - Terence Ward and Rich Giddens - who combined for one field goal and a total of six points.

"They obviously got a big shot in the arm from Melvin. We didn't expect him and he was in there," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said. "But we were missing way too many free throws. When you do that, especially in overtime, it's going to be costly. I was surprised by the people who were missing."

Two of UMBC's seven first-year players - McClurkin (20 points) and Peter Mulligan (18) - supplied most of the attack last night.

MOUNT ST. MARY'S-Atangana 2-9 4-4 8, Rivera 2-4 3-5 7, Christian 0-0 0-0 0, Herbert 7-11 2-2 17, Marvray 1-4 3-5 5, Lloyd 2-4 1-2 6, Price 7-13 2-2 17, Grace 0-1 0-0 0, Whitaker 7-11 4-4 18, Alexander 0-0 0-0 0, Cook 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-59 19-24 80. UMBC-Martin 3-3 0-2 6, McClurkin 8-14 4-6 20, Okafor 6-11 5-9 17, Wilson 3-8 1-8 10, Giddens 1-7 0-2 3, Ward 0-6 3-4 3, Yates 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Mulligan 7-11 3-7 18, Young 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-62 16-38 79. Halftime-Mount St. Mary's, 44-42. 3-point goals: MSM 3-10 (Lloyd 1-2, Price 1-2, Herbert 1-3, Atangana 0-1, Whitaker 0-2); UMBC 5-17 (Wilson 3-5, Mulligan 1-2, Giddens 1-5, Ward 0-5.) Rebounds: MSM 39 (Rivera 8); UMBC 37 (McClurkin 11). Assists: MSM 16 (Herbert, Marvray 4); UMBC 16 (Giddens 4). Total fouls: MSM 28, UMBC 21. Fouled out: Marvray. A: 1,029.

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