Mount women rally late to keep UMBC at bay

18-3 game-ending run lifts Mountaineers, 74-65

College Basketball

November 21, 2001|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG - The Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team has dominated the Northeast Conference, winning nine regular-season league crowns in the past 11 seasons.

But after falling to Long Island in last year's NEC title game and losing conference Player of the Year Kia Williams to graduation, the Mountaineers, on paper, look vulnerable in a conference filled with several up-and-coming teams.

However, they certainly didn't look that way last night at Knott Arena, where the Mountaineers sent a message to one of those upstart teams, defeating UMBC, 74-65, in both teams' conference opener, behind a game-ending 18-3 run.

The Mount (1-1) has beaten the Retrievers 26 times in 31 meetings, and the Retrievers (1-1) have not captured a game on the Mountaineers' home court since 1975.

"Everyone is still going to be after us, even more this year, because they think we are down," said Mountaineers coach Vanessa Blair. "So we have to come to play every night."

Sophomore Beth Foster led the Mountaineers with a career-high 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, to go along with 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Taylor Long came off the bench to score 20 points and was the key figure in the game-ending Mount St. Mary's run, which started at the six-minute mark.

Trailing 62-56 after the Retrievers had engineered a 9-0 spurt to take the six-point lead, Long got inside and scored on a three-point play to cut UMBC's lead to 62-61.

On the next possession, Foster, who was coming off a 20-point showing in the Mount's season-opening loss to West Virginia, hit a driving layup, which was followed by another basket by Long.

A basket by Lauren Kokotajlo, who had a career-high eight assists, and five more points from Long was more than enough to put the Retrievers away.

"The Mount has a tradition, which we don't have yet at UMBC," said Retrievers coach Jennifer Bednarek, whose team got 16 points from freshman Matea Pender and 15 from junior point guard Jessie Brown. "When it is on the line, I have seen them do it so many times. They just dig in, and knock it up a notch. Their defensive intensity picked up, and they did what they needed to do down the stretch."

Said Blair: "At the six-minute mark, we could have thrown in the towel. We were looking for a hero."

They found that person, and it was an unlikely one. Long, who scored just four points in the first half before erupting for 16 second-half points, averaged three points last season. She did score a career-high 22 against UMBC last year.

"This season, I am just working on being consistent; it has nothing to do with UMBC," said Long, a 6-foot forward from Alaska.

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