TRENTON, N.J. — TRENTON, N.J. -- Twenty percent tips are acceptable. Twenty percent shooting is not, unless you're the UMBC men's basketball team, and you've gotten past Central Connecticut State in postseason play for the first time.
That's what happened for the Retrievers last night during a 59-44 win over the defending Northeast Conference champions in the first round of the league tournament at Sovereign Bank Arena. UMBC missed 25 of its first 30 field goals, yet led at halftime thanks to Central Connecticut turnovers and Terence Ward, who got hot in time to score 22 points.
"Our shooting percentage was horrible, and we were still up in the game," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said after seeing his team grab 22 offensive rebounds. "So, it said something was going right. We came up with some offensive rebounds, so it made the points come up, but not necessarily in a pretty manner."
For the night, third-seeded UMBC (18-10) shot 25 percent from the field, but forced 25 turnovers and had 15 steals against sixth-seeded Central Connecticut (14-14).
"It's definitely refreshing, seeing as the last two years they've knocked us out," Ward said.
Now, the Retrievers face second-seeded Monmouth tonight in a 6:45 semifinal game.
"We're happy to beat Central, but we were simply hoping to advance," Ward said. "We want to win the title, and this was step [No.] 1 for doing it."
Unlike the past two years, UMBC had better talent than Central, which had Dean Walker and Lee Guinn out with broken wrists, and Ricardo Scott recovering from a separated shoulder.
And yet, given their advantages, the Retrievers played anxiously. UMBC's response to Central Connecticut's 2-3 zone defense? How about a 23-foot jump shot by Ward. That didn't go in, nor did many of the other shots UMBC put up.
Still, Ward started to heat up with a pair of threes, and Giddens hit another to tie the game at 15.
"We did a good job on everyone but Ward," Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman said about the UMBC guard, who hit four of his five three-pointers in the first half and scored 31 points against the Blue Devils in an earlier game. "When he sees us, his eyes light up, and his three-point shooting seems to improve."
Central Connecticut went up 21-15 on a jumper by John Tice with 6:57 left. As bad as UMBC shot, however, the Blue Devils' ball-handling may have been worse. They committed 13 first-half turnovers. That, along with missing five of seven free throws, kept UMBC in the game.
Finally, with about four minutes left in the first, shots began to fall for UMBC. Ward hit two threes during a 12-1 run that sent UMBC to halftime with a 32-27 lead.
After the break, UMBC hit four of its first seven shots while extending the lead to 44-31. The Retrievers' defense held the Blue Devils without a field goal for more than 10 minutes.
Corsley Edwards, a Lake Clifton product who had been a terror against UMBC with 57 points in two previous meetings, scored 11 first-half points, but was shut down after that and finished with 16 points.
Sullivan said it helped not having to contend with the three injured Blue Devils, all perimeter players with the ability to drive. Without them, the Retrievers could sag back.
"If those guys are in the game, we're going to have a more difficult time sloughing off," Sullivan said. "When we don't get broken down, we're pretty good at solidifying the inside game and concentrating on one single shooter."
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT--Van Stein 3-6 0-1 6, Robinson 2-4 0-0 4, Edwards 5-11 6-11 16, Battles 2-4 1-2 6, Tice 4-17 2-3 10, Sinvilcin 0-0 0-0 0, McNair 0-1 0-0 0, Bergh 1-3 0-0 2, Dukes 0-1 0-1 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 9-18 44. UMBC --Martin 0-3 5-6 5, Mulligan 4-18 1-3 9, McClurkkin 2-8 4-4 8, Wilson 2-5 3-4 9, Ward 6-16 5-6 22, Giddens 2-7 0-0 5, Yates 0-2 0-0 0, Okafor 0-4 1-4 1, Young 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-63 19-27 59.
Halftime--UMBC, 32-27. 3-Point goals--Central Connecticut St. 1-8 (Battles 1-1, Van Stein 0-1, Dukes 0-1, Tice 0-5), UMBC 8-29 (Ward 5-12, Wilson 2-2, Giddens 1-4, Yates 0-1, McClurkin 0-1, Mulligan 0-9). Fouled out--Battles. Rebounds--Central Connecticut St. 42 (Robinson 15), UMBC 47 (McClurkin 9). Assists--Central Connecticut St. 3 (Edwards 2), UMBC 12 (Mulligan, Yates 3). Total fouls--Central Connecticut St. 20, UMBC 19. Technical--Central Connecticut State coach Dickenman. A--3,424.