UMBC coach Earl Hawkins was disturbed last night after his team struggled to defeat Brooklyn College, 77-70, at the UMBC Fieldhouse.
Playing against a team that entered the game with 11 straight losses, the Retrievers fell behind by as many as nine in the first half and saw a 12-point second-half lead fade in the game's final minutes. Despite the team's up-and-down play, the Retrievers had their second straight win and retained hopes of finishing first in the East Coast Conference.
"It's very disturbing when a team thinks they can come out and just turn it on when it wants to beat someone," Hawkins said. "In this game, you just never know what's going to happen."
UMBC (9-17, 8-3 -- third in the ECC) trailed by seven at the half, but opened the second half with a 20-7 run to take a 45-39 lead. The lead eventually grew to 12 after a layup by Brian Watkins with 6:17 left.
Despite playing most of the game without their starting point guard (Brooklyn's Michael Rosen left the game after five minutes after running into a pick by Watkins), the Kingsmen pulled to within two after two free throws by Chip Entwistle with 2:10 left.
But Brooklyn (5-19, 3-7) scored just four more points and lost its 12th straight since a 74-67 win over Buffalo on Jan. 15.
After shooting 57.7 percent from the field in the first half, Brooklyn shot 37.5 percent in the second half. Combined with 11-for-22 shooting from the line in the second half (Brooklyn didn't go to the line in the first half), it's surprising that the Kingsmen were able to come close at the end.
"Of course we're frustrated," said Ron Kestenbaum, Brooklyn's second-year coach. "In the last stretch of games we've had a chance to win some games. It just seems like rather than stepping up and finding a way to win, we don't make the big plays."
It was UMBC's failure to make the big plays in the final four minutes that nearly cost the Retrievers the game. Holding on to a 65-61 lead, Derell Thompson (12 points) missed an open layup and a dunk, and Skip Saunders missed a break-away layup on UMBC's next three possessions. That allowed Brooklyn to come within a point and made the finish interesting.
"I thought we were going to cruise through and win and then . . . " said Hawkins. "The missed easy shots just didn't go. We needed points in those situations."
A poor free-throw shooting team (seven of 18 for the game), the Retrievers benefited from two easy breakaway baskets in the final 37 seconds to hold on and win. It was the second game in a row that UMBC has won after trailing at the half. Before Saturday's win over Central Connecticut, UMBC was 0-16 in those situations.
With one regular-season game to play, UMBC is a game behind first-place Towson State and 1 1/2 games behind second-place Hofstra in the ECC. A Towson loss to Rider on Saturday afternoon, combined with a UMBC win over Hofstra that night, would give the Retrievers a share of first place in the league.
"With a chance, we shouldn't be playing like this," Hawkins said. "We do have a shot. The only bad thing is that with Rider and Towson playing in the afternoon, I hope we don't know the results. Regardless of whether we do, we have to just go out and play for pride."
BROOKLYN -- Entwistle 3-12 5-11 11, Smith 5-10 0-0 10, Solis 8-10 1-1 17, Rosen 1-1 0-0 2, Gordon 3-10 0-0 8, Bickham 0-2 0-0 0, Bragg 7-10 0-2 17, 0-2 3-4 3, Sigler 0-1 2-4 2, Hayward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 11-22 70.
UMBC -- Thompson 6-16 0-1 12, Watkins 2-7 1-2 5, Nixon 8-12 1-6 17, Harris 5-6 2-4 12, Saunders 4-11 1-2 11, Ferguson 4-8 0-0 8, Wright 0-3 0-0 0, Andrews 2-2 2-2 6, Swann 0-2 0-0 0, Walker 3-5 0-1 6, Fasaye 0-0 0-0 0, Bellinger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-73 7-18 77.
Halftime--Brooklyn 32, UMBC 25. 3-point goals--Brooklyn 5-12 (Bragg 3-4, Gordon 2-6, Smith 0-1, Davis 0-1), UMBC 2-9 (Saunders 2-5, Ferguson 0-1, Wright 0-1, Walker 0-1, Thompson 0-1) Fouled out--none. Rebounds--Brooklyn 48 (Solis 10), UMBC 35 (Nixon 10). Assists--Brooklyn 15 (Bragg 4), UMBC 22 (Harris 7). Total fouls--Brooklyn 19, UMBC 19. A--1,016.