UMBC comes up big vs. St. Francis, 71-43 With rare size advantage, Retrievers win 2nd in NEC


Often overmatched and always undersized during its first five games, the UMBC men's basketball team got a look at the other side yesterday, cruising to its most lopsided win since 1992 by beating St. Francis, Pa., 71-43.

In front of 1,568 at UMBC Fieldhouse, the Retrievers (2-4, 2-0) were not only bigger but better in picking up their second Northeast Conference victory in as many games.

Four players scored in double figures for UMBC, which pulled away with an 11-0 run in the final two minutes of the first half and cruised to its largest margin of victory since a 96-68 win over Division III St. Mary's in 1992.

More important to UMBC coach Tom Sullivan, the defense came through, holding the Red Flash (1-4, 0-1) to the fewest points allowed since UMBC moved to Division I in 1986.

"We knew they had a scrappy team, and if we could defend them, we could score," Sullivan said. "What we didn't want to do was get into a situation where they were scoring and we were scoring."

"[Sullivan] said to me after the game that that was the best they'd ever played," St. Francis coach Tom McConnell said.

"They were just hitting on all cylinders today."

With 6-foot-8 Nick Grella as their tallest regular, the Retrievers found themselves at a disadvantage in games against No. 20 Pittsburgh and No. 2 Maryland. The Red Flash had no one taller than 6-7.

But Grella wasn't much of a factor yesterday, with no points or rebounds after two straight double doubles. Still, UMBC shot 56 percent from the floor and out-rebounded St. Francis, 38-20.

"I thought Nick was going to get it going, but we have a good team, so other guys just stepped up," said Brad Martin, who had a career-high 12 points and career-high eight rebounds for the second straight game.

Martin and Rod Harrison, who have started in place of Kennedy Okafor and Rich Giddens, were two who answered the call for the Retrievers, with Harrison scoring scored 13 of his career-high 15 points in the first half.

"This team is very deep, and we've proved that some of the people who haven't played and are now getting playing time have stepped up," Sullivan said.

With the top two players out of the starting lineup, the Retrievers trailed for four minutes, but took the lead for good at 9-7 when Terence Ward hit a three-pointer with 12: 24 to go in the first half.

Okafor and Harrison combined for nine of UMBC's 11 unanswered points in the last two minutes of the first half, capped by Harrison's 25-foot jumper at the buzzer, which gave UMBC a 36-20 lead.

"It wasn't all me; it was a team effort," Harrison said of his spurt to end the half. "Fortunately, I got some good shots, some good looks at the basket, and others did the same."

Sullivan said that Harrison and Martin would probably start as long as the team is playing well.

"I see no reason, when we're playing so well and putting together such runs in games, that we would change the starting lineup at all," said Sullivan.

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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