Quinnipiac stuns UMBC in semifinal

Seventh seed storms back from 11 down at half, 75-72

College Basketball

March 03, 2002|By Brian Towey | Brian Towey,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW YORK -- For the UMBC men's basketball team, the craggy climb to the Northeast Conference championship game has been a summit that has proven just beyond its grasp time and time again.

Last night, after gaining a tenuous foothold on a seeming berth in the finals with an 11-point halftime lead, the Retrievers again tumbled, falling to seventh-seeded Quinnipiac, 75-72, in the semifinals of the NEC tournament at Wagner College.

"We tasted victory, but we couldn't put it away," said sophomore Peter Mulligan, who had a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds as UMBC fell two wins short of an NCAA tournament bid. "We lost our focus a little bit in the last 20 minutes."

By controlling the glass and the tempo of the game, the third-seeded Retrievers built up a 36-25 halftime lead. UMBC pounded the ball inside early with great success, as center Will McClurkin (14 points) and power forward Eugene Young had their way with Quinnipiac's undersized frontcourt.

Perhaps most importantly, UMBC (20-9), which had won four in a row and 10 of 11, was able to slow the ball down and dictate the game's pace, utilizing its size advantage, something Quinnipiac was acutely aware of at the half.

"At the half, Coach [Joe DeSantis] told us that if we didn't run, we weren't going to win the game," said Quinnipiac point guard Rob Monroe, who had 16 of his 20 points after the break.

From the start of the second half, Quinnipiac pushed the tempo, harassing a harried group of Retrievers with a 1-3-1 trap. The Indians, eligible for the league tournament for the first time after a two-year waiting period, opened the half with a 16-2 run as the Retrievers watched a double-digit lead degenerate into a 41-38 deficit midway in the second half.

"One of the things we've had a problem with is when we open it up and then get comfortable," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said. "Quinnipiac just jacked up the level of intensity in the second half."

As Quinnipiac (14-15) continued to generate points with its defense and UMBC's offense sputtered, the Indians mounted a 52-44 lead at 9:50 and staved off a last-minute surge by the Retrievers to move into Wednesday's championship against Central Connecticut State.

The second-half fall capped off an otherwise rewarding season for UMBC, as a youthful group captured the program's first 20-win season since moving to Division I.

"At different points this season, we were starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior," Sullivan said. "For how young they were, I though they accomplished a great deal this season."

QUINNIPIAC--Bishop 4-9 0-0 8, Romano 6-17 1-2 13, Monroe 7-12 3-3 20, Grasso 0-0 3-6 3, Mims 4-10 9-13 17, Thornton 0-2 0-0 0, Lee 0-0 0-2 0, Vick 1-6 1-3 3, Thompson 0-0 1-2 1, Banjo 3-7 4-4 10. Totals 25-63 22-35 75. UMBC--Mulligan 7-15 3-4 18, Young 1-1 3-6 5, McClurkin 6-14 1-3 14, Washington 5-12 3-5 16, Gogerty 0-3 0-0 0, Wilson 4-9 9-15 17, Wallace 0-3 0-0 0, Yates 0-2 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Feeley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 24-61 19-33 72.

Halftime--UMBC, 36-25. 3-point goals--Quinnipiac 3-8 (Monroe 3-4, Bishop 0-1, Thornton 0-1, Mims 0-2), UMBC 5-18 (Washington 3-7, McLurkin 1-3, Mulligan 1-4, Gogerty 0-1, Wilson 0-1, Wallace 0-2). Fouled out--Bishop, Banjo. Rebounds--Quinnipiac 44 (Bishop, Romano 11), UMBC 41 (Mulligan, McClurkin 9). Assists--Quinnipiac 12 (Mims 5), UMBC 14 (McClurkin 4). Total fouls--Quinnipiac 27, UMBC 28. A--2,062.

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