Remember last summer's Indianapolis 500, which was stopped every two laps or so to clean up yet another wreck? UMBC and Charleston Southern staged basketball's version last night, as the Retrievers' 82-67 victory had plenty of collisions but little continuity.
UMBC (5-9, 2-3), which had been allowing over 87 points a game, set the tone early, denying Charleston Southern (5-8, 2-4) any access to the basket in the first four minutes of the Big South Conference game, and little thereafter. Free throws were allowed, however, and the two teams combined for 91 -- including 70 in a second half that lasted 80 minutes -- and an assortment of conference records.
The Retrievers tried 53 free throws and made 38, records for UMBC and the Big South. The 35 fouls committed by Charleston Southern was another conference record, but the Buccaneers also prospered at the line, making 30 of 38.
"I told them in the huddle, you can't let them score, and we had that attitude from the start," Retrievers coach Earl Hawkins said. Allowing 87 points per game is too much for anyone, unless you're scoring 97, which we're not."
It was a strange night at UMBC Fieldhouse, one in which Hawkins and UMBC weren't upset by the 39 points they allowed Darnell Sneed, a senior guard who graduated from Douglass High and then blossomed at Baltimore City Community College. Sneed, last season's Big South scoring champion, was 10 of 27 from the field, but 18 of 19 at the line, conference records for free-throw shooting.
"We were going to let him [Sneed] get his, and shut everyone else down," said sophomore forward Artie Walker, who had a career-high 16 points three days after missing a devastating loss to Campbell while recuperating from a concussion suffered in practice.
UMBC's lead never got smaller than four points after Walker staked the Retrievers to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes, as they took their defensive work seriously. For the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first 14 of the second, Sneed's teammates contributed only one basket. The Buccaneers shot 30.4 percent (17-for-56) from the field.
Sneed, who earlier this season raised the conference record for points in a game to 40, got the Buccaneers to 46-42 with 12:42 left. But UMBC then began its relentless march to the line, as it attempted 13 free throws in the next two minutes.
"It was rough out there," Charleston Southern coach Gary Edwards said. "We're not a good enough team to overcome that. It was sloppy, and we couldn't hit anything."
Senior forward Brian Watkins matched Walker's 16 points, getting 12 of his 16 points at the line, and junior center Sonique Nixon chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds.
UMBC and Towson State trade opponents tomorrow night, when the Retrievers are home against Winthrop and Charleston
Southern goes to the Towson Center.