UMBC stays on the rebound

Retrievers win 3rd in row after 4-game skid, 80-63

January 23, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

From the final game of 2000 into early January, UMBC underwent a stretch of four consecutive losses at home, including two in overtime and one by two points to slip below .500 after the best Division I basketball start in its history.

But the Retrievers are on the recovery trail, scoring their third straight victory - and second in a row at the RAC Arena - last night, 80-63, over Northeast Conference rival Sacred Heart.

After sprinting to a 14-2 lead at the onset, UMBC (9-7, 6-4) simply coasted to its second win in six days over Sacred Heart, a team experiencing growing pains in its second season in Division I.

The Pioneers offered more resistance on their own court, taking a 10-point halftime lead last Tuesday before UMBC pressed them into submission and took their first meeting, 80-69.

This time they couldn't overcome an 0-for-6, six-turnover start and never pulled to within fewer than eight points.

UMBC's heralded freshman from New York City, Peter Mulligan, scored a career-high 30 points and achieved the first double double of his season by adding a game-high 12 rebounds. His performance took some of the heat off the team's outside shooters, who had an off night.

"I think I play better offense when we're pressing," said Mulligan. "I was able to get a couple of steals and some easy layups. Then, after they went to a zone, we just had to attack and I got some open rebounds and put-back shots."

UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said the team has been pressing "a little more lately, extending our defense and juicing it up. It looks very efficient when we're going against a team that can't penetrate through it. No question in my mind our younger players can go at that speed, but I'm concerned about some of the older ones."

With Pioneer freshman forward Justin James also having a career scoring game (21 points, including four three-pointers), Sacred Heart (2-15, 1-8) hung around until the final minutes. The necessary sustained rally was not forthcoming, however, because the team missed 12 of 18 free throws and found no other consistent scorer in its lineup.

Sullivan said he believes the Retrievers are "more focused and don't let teams come back on us now. It's not that we weren't playing well during that losing streak. We've just got a young team, we had a little trouble with the flu and I probably gave them too much time off during the break. Now we're working a little harder."

Mulligan said his best night at St. Raymond's High was 33 points, "but I got 40 in a summer game."

NEC Rookie of the Week Will McClurkin had another solid game for UMBC with 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks, and Justin Wilson played a fine floor game.

"We just went after them aggressively on defense. After that early emotional run we had, the game got a little helter skelter," said Sullivan. "But eventually our defense won the game for us."

SACRED HEART-Hunter 3-10 1-2 8, Hairfield 0-2 0-0 0, Yokono 0-1 0-0 0, Reis 2-7 0-0 4, Sandy 2-7 2-7 6, Wellington 3-3 0-1 7, Assel 1-7 0-1 3, James 7-12 3-4 21, Welch 3-6 0-3 6, Kovaliukas 2-7 0-0 4, Spivey 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 25-64 6-18 63. UMBC-Okafor 1-5 7-8 9, Mulligan 12-16 4-5 30, McClurkin 7-14 0-0 14, Wilson 4-6 1-1 9, Ward 2-11 0-0 5, Giddens 1-6 4-4 6, Yates 0-0 1-2 1, Martin 2-3 2-4 6, Williams 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 29-62 19-25 80. Halftime-UMBC 42-29. 3-point goals-Sacred Heart 7-24 (Hunter 1-4, Reis 0-4, Wellington 1-1, Assel 1-6, James 4-7, Kovaliukas 0-2); UMBC 3-14 (Mulligan 2-4, Ward 1-9, Giddens 0-1). Rebounds-Sacred Heart 41 (Hunter 7); UMBC 42 (Mulligan 12). Assists-Sacred Heart 15 (Wellington 7); UMBC 17 (Mulligan 5). Total fouls-Sacred Heart 23, UMBC 18. Fouled out-James. A-712.

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