Desperately needing a win last night to bolster its chances of making the Northeast Conference tournament, UMBC ran into its worst-case scenario: an even more desperate opponent.
Facing Robert Morris, which entered the night tied for last in the conference and looking for its first road win since December, the Retrievers stayed in the game with their zone defense but faded down the stretch in a 64-58 loss before 1,115 at RAC Arena.
"I think defensively, we did what we wanted to do," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said. "We couldn't put the ball in the basket."
After trailing by eight with 2:02 to play, UMBC (6-17, 4-10), which started three freshmen because of injuries, cut the lead to two on a three-pointer by Kareem Washington (20 points) and a three-point play by forward John Zito.
Despite going the final 3:02 without a field goal, however, Robert Morris hung on by making six of eight at the free-throw line in the final 40 seconds.
The Retrievers, winners of at least 18 games in three of the past four seasons, have lost six straight, continuing their worst start since 1996-97. They broke a nine-game losing streak last month.
With four conference games remaining, UMBC sits alone in 11th place in the conference, ahead of only Sacred Heart. Only the top eight teams qualify for the postseason tournament.
For Robert Morris (7-15, 4-9), the win was its first on the road against a conference foe since February 2002.
"We know the position we're in," Colonials guard Maurice Carter said. "We've been losing a lot of games, so we tried to take our frustrations out on them."
Carter, who made just one of 11 shots in the first half, was the difference in the second half, hitting five of his nine three-point attempts to finish with a game-high 21 points.
"Both teams were in zone daring the other team to take [threes]," Sullivan said. "I was hoping Carter wouldn't heat up."
Playing without their top two point guards - senior Justin Wilson (fractured tibia) and sophomore Rob Gogerty (severe ankle sprain) - the Retrievers had a tough time getting into their offense. They relied primarily on the perimeter shooting of Washington, who went 7-for-22 from the field.
ROBERT MORRIS - McCrommon 7-14 2-5 18, Thomas 3-11 1-2 8, Davenport 1-3 1-6 3, Ellis 2-4 4-5 8, Carter 6-20 3-6 21, Clarke 0-2 0-0 0, Guzman 0-0 0-0 0, Kuhn 2-3 1-2 6. Totals 21-57 12-23 64. UMBC - Zito 5-12 1-3 11, Hatcher 2-7 2-2 7, Young 5-6 2-5 12, Washington 7-22 2-2 20, Dinkins 1-3 0-0 2, Snyder 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Feeley 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 23-57 7-12 58. Half - Robert Morris, 25-22. 3-point goals - Robert Morris 10-30 (McCrommon 2-5, Thomas 1-5, Carter 6-16, Clarke 0-2, Kuhn 1-2), UMBC 5-17 (Zito 0-1, Hatcher 1-4, Washington 4-12). Rebounds - Robert Morris 39 (McCrammon 10), UMBC 37 (Feeley 11). Assists - Robert Morris 14 (McCrammon, Thomas, Ellis, Carter 3), UMBC 15 (Washington 6). Total fouls - Robert Morris 12, UMBC 19. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. A - 1,115.