Foul shots send UMBC to 19th victory, 81-78

Mulligan's accuracy, `D' in game's final seconds stop pesky Sacred Heart

February 26, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Tournament-bound UMBC received a scare in its regular-season finale last night, but persevered long enough to repel Sacred Heart, 81-78, in a Northeast Conference thriller at RAC Arena.

In the end, UMBC relied on the free-throw shooting of its foundation, forward Peter Mulligan, who knocked down four in a row in the final 16 seconds to enable the team to tie the school's Division I record with 19 victories.

The Retrievers took a 77-74 lead with 26 seconds remaining after two foul shots by Justin Wilson. Two Mulligan free throws made it 79-74 with 16 seconds left, but Sacred Heart (8-19, 7-13) kept the suspense going until the buzzer.

The Pioneers' Maurice Bailey drove the lane for a basket. He was fouled on the play and missed the free throw, but UMBC failed to block out Andrew Hunter (20 points), who scored off the rebound to narrow the gap to one point.

Mulligan was fouled on the inbound pass and followed with the final two points of the game from the line, leaving 4.9 seconds to go.

Sacred Heart tried to set up a tying three-pointer for Chris Assel - who was 0-for-7 in the game - but the Retrievers' defense foiled the effort and Assel failed to get off a shot.

The victory was the ninth in the past 10 games for UMBC (19-8, 15-5) and the sixth straight at home.

"They're an up-and-coming team," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said of Sacred Heart, which scored only 52 points in losing the first meeting. "They've gotten a lot better since we played them last year and a lot better since we played them earlier this year."

Sacred Heart grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and had an overall 47-33 edge on the boards, but couldn't overcome the Retrievers' 16-point advantage on the foul line.

"We have trouble with offensive rebounding teams with athletes like they have," Sullivan said. "Two, three and four possessions in a row on defense can wear you out. I think they had fresher legs at the end because of it."

"We just did a horrible job of rebounding and controlling the boards," said UMBC's Eugene Young (14 points, six rebounds).

But UMBC had Mulligan, who had a game-high 23 points and three steals to lead a defense that forced 20 turnovers.

"I go back to this team is young," Sullivan said. "Only Peter Mulligan can stay focused and hang in and do the right thing at the end. When we had to, we executed."

Sacred Heart qualified for the NEC tournament as the eighth and final seed in its first year of eligibility and only third in Division I. With only two seniors leaving and Bailey (19 points, eight rebounds) among the returnees, it will be a team to watch next season.

Meanwhile, the Retrievers can achieve their first 20-victory record in Division I at the NEC tournament quarterfinals Friday.

SACRED HEART-Queenan 5-8 2-3 12, Samuels 2-5 0-0 4, Trim 2-2 0-0 4, Wellington 4-9 2-3 11, Bailey 7-17 4-8 19, Assel 0-7 0-0 0, Hunter 9-15 2-4 20, James 0-2 0-0 0, Welch 3-5 0-0 6, Yokono 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 33-72 10-18 78. UMBC-Mulligan 7-12 9-10 23, Young 4-7 6-11 14, McClurkin 5-11 3-4 13, Washington 6-11 1-2 14, Gogerty 2-6 2-2 7, Wilson 1-4 2-2 5, Wallace 0-0 1-2 1, Yates 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-1 2-2 4, Feeley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 26-35 81. Halftime-UMBC, 40-37. 3-point goals-Sacred Heart 2-10 (Wellington 1-4, Bailey 1-2, Assel 0-3, Hunter 0-1), UMBC 3-12 (Mulligan 0-3, Washington 1-3, Gogerty 1-2, Wilson 1-3, Yates 0-1). Rebounds-Sacred Heart 47 (Hunter 9), UMBC 33 (McClurkin 7). Assists-Sacred Heart 17 (Wellington 6), UMBC 18 (Washington, Wilson 4). Total fouls-Sacred Heart 22, UMBC 18. Fouled out-Williams, Wellington. A-1,152.

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