UMBC holds off Robert Morris


UMBC prolonged its late-season roll and simultaneously gained some payback yesterday at RAC Arena.

While remaining in a rare zone defense practically all the way, the Retrievers fought off a late Robert Morris comeback and avenged one of their worst losses with an 84-70 Northeast Conference victory before 1,233.

The outcome kept UMBC (15-7, 11-4) in solid contention for a second seed in the upcoming league tournament. It was the team's fifth straight win and 10th in 12 games.

"We all circled this game after we lost up there [80-65 on Dec. 1]," said Retrievers forward Peter Mulligan. "We felt we just had a bad one.

"I was very excited for this game after the trash-talking that went on up there. They thought they were a lot better than us."

Mulligan finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, three steals and just one turnover.

Robert Morris (9-15, 8-7), which is battling to make the NEC tournament, rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to win at Mount St. Mary's two days earlier and was threatening to repeat.

Depending heavily on the three-pointer against the UMBC zone, the Colonials trailed by as many as 15 points before closing to within 68-65 with 4:56 remaining in the game.

The Retrievers, who were 30-for-40 from the line overall, were in the midst of a free-throw shooting slump, missing five of six and failing to put the game away.

But Kareem Washington followed with a key steal and layup and UMBC converted nine of its last 10 foul shots to pull away.

Despite missing forward Ron Yates (sprained thumb), the Retrievers' bench accounted for 47 points with Eugene Young scoring a career-high 16 to match Justin Wilson. Washington pitched in 15.

"After you get your first dunk, you want to keep on playing to get more," said Young. "Whoever was filling the lanes was getting the ball from Peter."

Said UMBC coach Tom Sullivan, who usually disdains the zone defense: "We rolled the dice a little going zone. But I didn't think they were expecting it. They run an intricate motion offense and I didn't want us to run out of legs at the end. It was our fourth game in seven days."

The strategy worked, as the Retrievers were fresher at the end, stayed out of foul trouble and maintained their composure, a trait that was missing earlier in the season.

UMBC shot 49 percent from the field, taking 18 fewer attempts than Robert Morris.

"I think the 2-3 zone made us panic a little," said Colonials coach Mark Schmidt, a former Loyola College assistant under Skip Prosser. "We attacked it effectively early, but when the shots didn't go down later, we got a little tighter.

"We took far too many threes [30] and settled for too many jump shots."

Robert Morris had four players in double figures, led by guard Ricky Richburg, who had 14 points, including four three-pointers.

UMBC is off until Thursday, when it plays at Long Island. The Retrievers then visit Wagner on Feb. 17 to complete their regular-season road schedule.

ROBERT MORRIS-Bacon 4-13 2-2 12, Thomas 2-8 0-0 5, Smith 2-5 1-2 5, Richburg 5-11 0-0 14, Ellis 0-2 0-0 0, Carter 4-12 2-2 12, Fluellen 3-5 0-0 8, McCrommon 3-9 4-7 10, Davenport 0-1 2-2 2, Darden 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 24-67 11-15 70. UMBC-McClurkin 2-5 0-0 5, Mulligan 7-14 12-13 28, Feeley 1-3 0-0 2, Gogerty 0-2 0-0 0, Wallace 1-3 0-0 2, Washington 3-6 8-10 15, Wilson 5-8 4-8 16, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Young 5-7 6-9 16. Totals 24-49 30-40 84.

Halftime-UMBC 42, Robert Morris 29. 3-Point goals-Robert Morris 11-30 (Bacon 2-7, Thomas 1-3, Richburg 4-7, Carter 2-7, Fluellen 2-4, McCrommon 0-2), UMBC 6-15 (McClurkin 1-1, Mulligan 2-4, Gogerty 0-1, Wallace 0-1, Washington 1-4, Wilson 2-4. Fouled out-Robert Morris (Bacon, Smith), UMBC (McClurkin). Rebounds-Robert Morris 35 (McCrommon 7), UMBC 41 (Mulligan 15). Assists-Robert Morris 18 (Bacon 7), UMBC 15 (Mulligan 5). Total fouls-Robert Morris 29, UMBC 15. A-1,233.

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