The University of Maryland Baltimore County basketball team ended the regular season with a four-game winning streak after posting only two victories in the first three months of the season.
But no one was jumping for joy in the Retrievers' locker room last night after they sleepwalked to a 76-62 win over the Division II University of Buffalo at UMBC Fieldhouse.
UMBC, which will meet Hofstra Saturday at 2 p.m. in an opening-round game in the ECC tournament at the Towson Center, was coming off three straight impressive East Coast Conference performances, and the Bulls were supposed to provide the Retrievers (6-21) with a tournament tuneup.
However, the evening turned out to be more of a headache for UMBC coach Earl Hawkins, who watched his team regress for 28 minutes before spurting down the stretch to pull away from the Bulls.
"We've played four straight emotional ECC games and then we have to come and play a non-conference game like this," said Hawkins. "It wasn't enough to get us motivated. Our kids wound up pressing too much and trying too hard and it didn't work out."
But Hawkins said he wasn't worried about getting the Retrievers mentally ready to face Hofstra.
"We've had four straight years when we didn't have a tournament to look forward to," said Hawkins, referring to the school's independent Division I status before joining the ECC, "so there's no way we won't be ready to play against Hofstra. The guys are all aware that if we could string three wins together, we can go to the NCAA tournament."