At the halfway point of a 73-60 loss at UMBC yesterday, Robert Morris coach Jim Boone must have thought it was his lucky day.
Here he was, on the road against the hottest team in the Northeast Conference, his Colonials unable to find the basket, yet UMBC was only up by seven points heading into the break.
If that's not the time to steal a win, when is?
"We felt pretty good at that point," Boone said. "You have only four field goals at the half and you're down seven. And if you don't make a few errors [in the final minutes], you're down by less than that."
But while UMBC couldn't reproduce a half in which it held Robert Morris to 23 percent shooting, the 35 percent shooting performance the team allowed in the second half is not one the Colonials will be boasting about.
"Their defense totally took us out of our offense," Boone said. "They were well-prepared and did a good job."
Stymied, Robert Morris (8-6, 6-3 NEC) never made the run Boone envisioned.
Although sending the Colonials to the line 40 times, UMBC's defensive effort overshadowed a 27-point performance by guard Terence Ward. The team also out-rebounded Robert Morris, 43-26, and saw the re-emergence of Rich Giddens, who scored 12 points.
The Retrievers (9-5, 8-0) are still undefeated in their first year in the NEC.
"What's happening," said UMBC coach Tom Sullivan, "is that our players are gaining more confidence in focusing on stopping people. They're starting to see this as more of a challenge and something where the more willpower you put into it, the more you can do it."
UMBC's main task was stopping Robert Morris' inside-outside combination of Gene Nabors and Keith Jones, who entered yesterday's game averaging 17.1 points and 18.1 points, respectively, in NEC play.
Because of the defense of several Retrievers, but mainly Ward against Nabors and Isaac Green and Kerry Martin against Jones, neither player was able to get untracked yesterday.
Like everyone else on the nation's top free throw-shooting team (80 percent), Nabors got most of his points from the line, hitting nine of 10 on the way to 15 points. From the floor, Nabors and Jones were a combined 3-for-21.
Particularly impressive was the job on Jones, who never seemed to get a clear look at the basket despite frequently getting the ball in prime scoring position.
"He had good position," Martin said, "but when he turned around, I gave him his space, and after he had made his move, waited for him to jump and then I contested his shot."
Ward solved Nabors by keeping him in front. The Retriever also hit the shots that helped keep the Colonials at bay.
ROBERT MORRIS -- Welsch 2-4 2-2 7, Jones 1-11 6-6 8, Hopkins 1-2 2-2 4, Nabors 2-8 9-10 15, Covert 2-10 4-6 8, Alcorn 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 3-4 3-7 9, Pettyjohn 2-4 2-2 6, Smith 0-0 3-5 3. Totals 13-43 31-40 60.
UMBC -- Green 1-4 1-3 3, B.Martin 2-6 1-3 5, Grella 1-4 4-4 6, Ward 7-11 10-11 27, Harrison 1-5 0-0 2, Giddens 4-7 4-4 12, Hyland 1-4 0-0 3, Womble 1-2 0-0 2, Okafor 2-4 2-2 6, K.Martin 1-3 5-8 7. Totals 21-50 27-35 73.
Halftime--UMBC 29-22. 3-point goals--RM 3-10 (Welsch 1-2, Nabors 2-4, Covert 0-4); UMBC 4-10 (Ward 3-4, Harrison 0-2, Giddens 0-1, Hyland 1-3). Fouled out--Welsch, Hopkins, Jackson. Rebounds--RM 26 (Jones 8); UMBC 43 (Grella 11). Assists--RM 5 (Jones, Nabors 2); UMBC 12 (Harrison, Giddens 3). Total fouls--RM 27; UMBC 27. A--812.
Pub Date: 1/10/99