Retrievers pound out 60-49 win; UMBC, back on track after first NEC loss, tops Central Connecticut


It didn't take UMBC long to revert to winning form.

Two nights after dropping their first Northeast Conference game of the season at Robert Morris, the Retrievers cranked up their gritty defense last night and disposed of Central Connecticut, 60-49, at the UMBC Fieldhouse.

The hard-knocking game resembled a throwback to an earlier era and UMBC (17-6, 16-1) survived the banging to equal Mount St. Mary's 1996 record for NEC victories in a season.

"We had to play tough after that last game," said Retrievers center Nick Grella, who packed 11 points and five rebounds into the first half and scored eight of his team's first 11 points to help UMBC to a quick 11-2 advantage. "We had something to prove to the rest of the conference."

Central Connecticut (14-11, 8-8) played a lot of zone defense after getting out-rebounded 42-21 in UMBC's December victory at the Blue Devils' home court. That surprised Retrievers coach Tom Sullivan.

"I was kind of happy they did that," Sullivan said. "Their big guys can play and the zone ate up some clock. And we think we have some very good shooters, people who were recruited to shoot."

Guard Terence Ward made two three-pointers early and then pitched in the one that really put away the decision.

The Blue Devils, who were behind by as many as 15, launched a mini-rally to close to 48-41 with 4: 33 remaining in the game. They had a chance to shave the margin even more but Rick Mickens missed a three-point attempt and Ward responded with a three to give UMBC a 10-point cushion.

Down the stretch, Central Connecticut aggravated its problems by missing five of eight attempts from the free-throw line, as Ward, Tim Hyland and Rich Giddens were making theirs to cement UMBC's 17th win in the last 19 games.

"Robert Morris found us out of our focus and took our intensity away," Sullivan said. "At this point in the year, you're going to have games of will and this one tonight was one of them. We're still striving to prove that we belong in this league."

The Blue Devils were the fifth team that the UMBC defense, the NEC leader, has held to under 50 points.

Freshman center Corsley Edwards (Lake Clifton) equaled Grella's output with 16 points and seven rebounds while nearly 100 friends and relatives watched from among the crowd of 2,052.

It wasn't nearly enough as the Retrievers amassed 11 steals and forced Central Connecticut into 33 percent shooting, including four of 16 from three-point range.

"This was an important win getting ready for the tournament, but we can't consider any game unimportant with St. Francis [N.Y., the NEC runner-up] and Long Island coming up twice," Sullivan said. "Nick got us going offensively because they were challenging our scorers and a lot of his stuff came not by design."

CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE -- Walker 2-7 0-0 5, Watson 2-6 4-10 8, Edwards 7-14 2-4 16, Brookins 2-4 0-0 5, Mickens 3-11 1-2 9, Van Stein 0-2 1-2 1, Floyd 0-0 0-0 0, Finley 0-2 0-0 0, Dreyer 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 1-2 1, Bergh 0-2 2-2 2, Payne 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 17-51 11-22 49.

UMBC -- Green 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 1-4 0-0 2, Grella 7-13 2-3 16, Ward 4-9 2-2 13, Harrison 0-4 0-1 0, Giddens 3-5 2-2 9, Hyland 2-3 7-8 12, Womble 0-0 0-0 0, Okafor 2-7 3-4 7, Martin 0-1 1-2 1, Aderkunle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-46 17-22 60.

Halftime--UMBC, 60-49. 3-point goals--CCS 4-16 (Walker 1-3, Brookins 1-1, Mickens 2-8, Van Stein 0-2, Finley 0-1 Dreyer 0-1); UMBC 5-12 (Ward 3-6, Harrison 0-3, Giddens 1-1, Hyland 1-2). Fouled out--Green, Grella. Rebounds--CCS 19 (Bergh 9); UMBC (Grella 7). Assists--CCS 9 (Brookins 3); UMBC (Ward 5). Total fouls--CCS 19, UMBC 22. A--2,052.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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