With 25 points by sophomore forward Peter Mulligan last night against visiting St. Francis (Pa.), the otherwise balanced UMBC Retrievers got 20-plus points from a player for the first time in 11 games.
It turned out they needed each and every one from Mulligan. And a clutch inside basket from fellow sophomore forward Will McClurkin with 23 seconds left. And a strong defensive rebound with three seconds left from Ron Yates, who then made two free throws to finally put away the pesky Red Flash, 75-72, at RAC Arena.
The Retrievers improved to 14-7 and, with their fourth straight Northeast Conference win, are in fourth place in the conference with a 10-4 mark going into tomorrow afternoon's game against visiting Robert Morris.
Last night, UMBC jumped out to a fast 7-0 lead that grew into a 27-15 advantage, and it looked easy against the Red Flash (5-16, 4-10), which has lost seven straight.
Not so fast.
With a career-high 27 points from sophomore reserve Steveroy Daley, who didn't even score for the Red Flash in UMBC's 77-75 win in the teams' first meeting, UMBC actually found itself trailing by as many as five points late and by 72-71 with 40 seconds left.
When called on, the UMBC defense got the necessary stops, and the Retrievers converted at the other end.
Mulligan, who added 13 rebounds, and McClurkin, who finished with 16 points, scored eight straight points before Yates hit the two free throws to provide the final margin. The Red Flash had one last clean three-point look from Joey Goodson at the buzzer, but it hit the back of the rim.
"We really had to work for it, and it came down to the last shot. They got a last shot off and you can't say more than that, and that thing was right on the money. So we wind up in a situation where we're home and things went our way," said UMBC coach Tom Sullivan. "Overall, our effort was not as good because their effort was so good."
The Retrievers were 8-2 in that 10-game stretch minus a 20-point scorer, but Sullivan was glad to get the much-needed big night from Mulligan.
"The one thing that I think kids at this level don't understand as much is how big aggression is and what Peter always gives us is that aggression. He's always attacking," Sullivan said.
Mulligan said finding the late answers is a reassuring positive that came from lessons learned.
"We knew if we kept playing the way we were, we would have ended up losing the game, and we've already lost too many games that we should have won this year," he said. "We didn't want to hang our heads after this one so we turned it up."
Yates finished with 13 points, with junior guard Justin Wilson adding 10 for the Retrievers.
ST. FRANCIS (PA.)-Mougnol 4-13 2-6 10, Gibson 4-11 2-5 12, Saragba 0-1 0-0 0, Swoger 2-3 4-4 9, Goodson 0-3 0-0 0, Martin 0-6 0-0 0, Augustin 0-0 1-4 1, Benton 2-6 4-4 9, Daley 11-15 5-5 27, Clifford 1-2 2-2 4, Fox 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 20-30 72.
UMBC-McClurkin 5-12 6-8 16, Mulligan 9-19 6-7 25, Feeley 0-0 0-0 0, Gogerty 1-5 2-2 4, Wallace 1-5 0-0 3, Washington 0-2 0-0 0, Wilson 4-7 1-2 10, Yates 4-6 4-4 13, Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Young 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-58 19-23 75.
Halftime-UMBC 35-31. 3-point goals-St. Francis 4-16 (Swoger 1-2, Gibson 2-6, Benton 1-4, Martin 0-1, Clifford 0-1, Goodson 0-2); UMBC 4-18 (Yates 1-2, Wallace 1-3, Wilson 1-4, Mulligan 1-4, Gogerty 0-3, Washington 0-2). Rebounds-St. Francis 40 (Mougnol 13); UMBC 36 (Mulligan 13). Assists-St. Francis 16 (Benton 5); UMBC 18 (Washington 5). Totals fouls-St. Francis 20, UMBC 22. Fouled out-Washington. Technical fouls-Mougnol, St. Francis bench, McClurkin. A-1,042.