New kid on block, UMBC shows fight before falling

America East rookies hit by Coppenrath, 67-66

January 05, 2004|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Playing its first home game as an America East Conference member yesterday, UMBC proved that it could hold its own against the likes of defending league champion Vermont.

The Retrievers, however, also failed to find an answer for defending Player of the Year Taylor Coppenrath, who burned them for 30 points in a 67-66 loss.

"Even though it's a loss, it's still a statement game," said guard Kareem Washington. "I think everybody in the conference now knows that just because we changed conferences, we're not going to sit back and take a bunch of losses."

Washington, who finished with 24 points and a career-high six three-pointers, led a late charge that nearly resulted in a dramatic comeback. Trailing by nine with just over four minutes to play, UMBC cut the lead to three when Washington followed a layup with a three-pointer with 1:03 left.

Vermont (5-5 overall, 2-0 conference) then extended the lead to four at the foul line before another three by Washington made it 67-66 with just more than a second to play. The Retrievers' John Zito intercepted Vermont's long inbounds just over half court, but his desperation heave fell short at the buzzer.

UMBC (4-7, 1-1) is 0-3 at home for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

The difference in this one was UMBC's inability to stop Coppenrath, the conference's leading scorer. The 6-foot-9 junior dominated in the paint early, scoring 15 in the first 13 minutes to help forge a 23-19 lead.

When foul trouble forced Coppenrath to the bench late in the half, UMBC began to take control. Led by the inside play of Zito and Cory McJimson, as well as two three-pointers by Washington, the Retrievers scored 17 of the half's final 25 points for a 36-31 lead - their biggest of the game - at the break.

Once Coppenrath got going, however, he was nearly unstoppable, finishing 13 for 22 from the field. He got a further boost when Zito and starting center Andrew Feeley sat out with four fouls less than nine minutes into the second half.

"We knew they were going to go to him and we had talked about how we had to defend him, but we couldn't come up with any way," said UMBC coach Tom Sullivan. "He started the game by eating Andrew Feeley alive. Then he ate Seth Davis, then he ate Eugene Young. He is by far the best player that we've played against at this level."

VERMONT-Coppenrath 13-22 4-8 30, Jones 2-5 2-3 6, Sorrentine 4-8 5-6 15, Hehn 0-2 0-0 0, Njila 2-2 0-0 4, Klimes 1-4 3-4 5, Jensen 2-3 0-0 5, Hanson 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-46 16-23 67.

UMBC-Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Zito 6-13 2-6 14, Feeley 1-3 2-2 4, Gogerty 2-6 0-0 4, Pugh 2-3 0-0 5, Washington 8-17 2-2 24, Dinkins 0-0 0-0 0, McJimson 4-7 2-3 10, Housman 2-2 1-2 5, Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 9-15 66.

Halftime-UMBC 36, Vermont 31. 3-point goals-Vermont 3-7 (Coppenrath 0-1, Sorrentine 2-3, Hehn 0-1, Jensen 1-2), UMBC 7-18 (Davis 0-1, Zito 0-3, Gogerty 0-2, Pugh 1-1, Washington 6-10, McJimson 0-1). Rebounds-Vermont 30 (Coppenrath 7), UMBC 26 (McJimson 6). Assists-Vermont 18 (Jones 5), UMBC 19 (Gogerty 9). Total fouls-Vermont 17, UMBC 20. A-1,247.

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