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Retrievers come up short vs. Fairleigh; 54-52 loss deals blow to UMBC's hopes for berth in NEC tournament


Just like last season at this time, the UMBC men's basketball team is looking at a potential must-win situation following a 54-52 loss to Fairleigh Dickinson last night at the Retriever Activities Center.

But while a Northeast Conference regular-season title was on the line in last year's finale, this time the Retrievers (11-16, 7-10) must beat Monmouth tomorrow -- or hope for a Wagner loss to second-place Quinnipiac -- in order to reach next weekend's NEC tournament in Trenton, N.J..

Fairleigh Dickinson's LaMarque Ward moved past Terence Ward on the right side -- after some debatable footwork -- and hit a bank shot from about 10 feet that decided the game with 1.5 seconds left.

Ike Williams then intercepted Brad Martin's full-court pass, sealing the win for Fairleigh Dickinson (16-10, 12-5), which wrapped up a second seed in the league's postseason tournament.

"This is a 37-point turnaround," FDU coach Tom Green said, referring to UMBC's 35-point win over the Knights on Jan. 8. "We knew it would be a 50-point game. We just had to hang in there and get a big basket when we needed to."

Ward's game-winning shot erased a frantic comeback from a late eight-point deficit, which culminated with Terence Ward's game-tying three-pointer with 1: 10 remaining.

With the score at 52, the Retrievers could have taken the lead, but Ward was called for an offensive foul with 18.5 seconds left, a foul that some found questionable.

"There wasn't much contact," he said. "The guy fell in front of me and the referee called a charge."

Chris Ekwe scored 15 points to lead three Knights in double figures. William Van de Keere finished with 14 points and LaMarque Ward added 10. Terence Ward led UMBC with 11 points, followed by Kennedy Okafor's 10.

At the 15: 02 mark, Justin Wilson's three-pointer gave UMBC a 13-4 lead. From that point, however, the Retrievers' offense became somewhat stagnant, and also wasted a strong defensive effort by allowing second-chance baskets, such as the flying slam LaMarque Ward connected on after grabbing an Ekwe miss, closing FDU's deficit to 15-13 with 11: 35 left in the first half.

Having fallen back by as many as eight points to begin the second half, UMBC charged back, as Terence Ward's shooting touch returned. He hit a pair of three pointers, cutting the Knights' lead to 39-36 with 16: 59 to go.

The Retrievers, enlisting inside players Kerry Martin, Okafor and Andre Williams, eventually went on a 6-0 run that put them ahead 42-41 with 12: 42 remaining.

As soon as UMBC rebounded, however, Fairleigh Dickinson answered, asserting its strength inside.

Having scored nine consecutive points, the Knights took a 52-44 lead with 6: 03 left.

FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON -- Martin 0-2, 0-0 0, Bangoura 0-1 3-4 3, Ekwe 3-7 9-11 15, Mitchell 1-4 0-0 3, Van de Keere W. 5-11 0-0 14, Coursey 0-0 0-1 0, Ward 5-8 0-0 10, Van de Keere, 0-2 5-5 5,Hammond 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 1-2 0-1 2, Olafsson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-40 17-22 54.

UMBC -- Green 2-6 2-2 6, Martin 2-3 1-2 5, Okafor 4-10 2-2 10, Wilson 3-9 2-2 9, Ward 4-10 0-0 11, Washington 1-5 0-0 2, Martin 3-5 0-1 6, Williams 1-2 1-2 3, Grannum 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-51 8-11 52.

Halftime--Fairleigh Dickinson 30-26. 3-point goals--Fairleigh Dickinson 5-18 (Martin 0-2, Mitchell 1-3, Coursey 0-1, Ward 0-2, Van de Keere 0-2, Olafsson 0-1). UMBC 4-14 (Wilson 1-5 Ward 4-10 0-0 11, Washington 0-2). Fouled out--Green. Rebounds--Fairleigh Dickinson (Ward 8), UMBC (Okafor, Ward 5). Assists--Fairleigh Dickinson (Ward 3), UMBC (Wilson 3). Total fouls--Fairleigh Dickinson 15, UMBC 20. A--982.

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